“Ghost Quartet” Combines Musical Variety with Acting in a Complex Performance

At some points in the Ghost Quartet performance, audience members participated in the show by playing musical instruments.

“I like to lose my mind, get blurry, sloppy, boozy, and blind,” harmonized the cast of “Ghost Quartet” as they sang “Four Friends,” a song about four different brands of whiskey. Matching the lazy, playful melody, the cast members drunkenly staggered around the stage as they passed out juice boxes to the audience.

“Those moments are in the original show…in the original show, [the audience is] offered whiskey because [the cast is] singing about the different brands of whiskey. We don’t have an alcohol license and everyone was underage so we opted to use juice boxes instead,” said Sam Wright ’19, Co-Director and cast member of the production.

“Ghost Quartet,” a musical written and composed by Dave Malloy, was performed in the theater classroom last Friday evening after more than a year of preparation. The show is performed with a six person cast, comprising of Wright, Junah Jang ’20, Jacques Kuno ’20, Eby McKenzie ’20 on cello, Chloe Webster ’20, and Skylar Xu ’20 on piano.

The musical follows four different timelines involving four different versions of each character; however, it is not told chronologically, which is why the directors printed a two-page synopsis to help the audience follow along.

Webster, Co-Director and cast member, said, “Although the plot is obviously very complicated and can be hard to follow, at its heart, it’s really about the connection between these people and how human connections transcend physical boundaries and is more of a spiritual thing.”

The confusing aspect of the plot made it enjoyable for some audience members, as they were given the challenging task of piecing together the plot, according to Celeste Robinson ’22.

“It was very confusing. I didn’t really know what I was getting into when I saw a two-sided summary, but I banded the pieces together and it was a really fun experience to go through that process of figuring it out on your own,” said Robinson.

One thing that distinguishes “Ghost Quartet” from many other musicals is its music. It incorporates many different elements, styles, and cultures through their music. In addition, the music is structured like an album, so at the beginning of every new piece that the cast sang, a cast member would announce the side and track of the song.

“Dave Malloy, the [composer], said he took inspiration from… murder ballads, doo-wop, angular beep-bop, Chinese folk, Islamic Adhan, and the music of Bernard Herrmann and George Crumb. Also, ‘Frozen’ and ‘Into the Woods,'” said Wright.

This unique form of music was what attracted some members of the audience to attend the performance, according to audience member Henry Crater ’20.

“Part of me…wanted to explore a kind of new, different genre of musical theater that is Dave Malloy. He’s not your typical composer. The music in the show is funny and it’s weird, and it’s a style that I wanted to expose myself to,” said Crater.

Since this production was not formally produced by the Theater Department, such as a Theater-901 performance, there was no structured or regular practice schedule that the cast could follow. This posed a challenge to the cast because it was difficult to find a mutual time for everyone, despite the small size of the cast.

“It was hard to find time for people to meet because we didn’t have an official [Theater-901]. We didn’t have a set time, or schedule because it’s such a small cast; it was very dependent on people’s different commitments,” said Webster.

The show was originally supposed to be held last spring, but the production was forced to postpone their performance because of scheduling conflicts.

“The cast has gone through many different iterations…We did have some trouble scheduling around other things and with all the different people we had involved, so [having a performance last year] did not work out. Unfortunately, we had some members who were not able to participate this year because they were not available,” said Webster.