According to Penfold Theatre’s producing artistic director Ryan Crowder, the musical Ghost Quartet “started out as a kind of concept album of spooky things. There are tons of stories inspired by various sources, [such as] 1001 Arabian Nights and Fall of the House of Usher, and the Grimm’s Fairy Tales – all of these different ghost stories are packed into it.”
Crowder discovered Ghost Quartet after becoming a fan of composer Dave Malloy’s hit Broadway show Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812. He went looking for other works by Malloy and found Ghost Quartet, an earlier but not as well know musical.
Eager to work with director Liz Fisher again (Fisher had adapted and directed Henry V for Penfold earlier this year), Crowder brought Ghost Quartet to her attention. Fisher was intrigued by the album-like construct of the work.
“I really fell in love with the music, and the thing that I thought was so interesting about it is [that] Dave Malloy calls it a concept album, in the sort of vein of The Wall or Ziggy Stardust,” she says. “And I remember being in college and listening to those albums, and you start to sort of imagine stories… through those albums. And that seemed like a really exciting project to me.”
The work features four performers who gather in a seedy bar to share ghost stories; the format allows the actors to play multiple characters as the various tales come to life.
“I play Gelsey,” says Actor Sarah Marie Curry. “And she is, of course, multiple characters all rooted in this dive bar.” All the characters are versions of Gelsey, she says, adding that “it gives you a lot perspectives to channel through, which is really interesting. I love that mentality of how I am Gelsey always in all of these different parts, but… there’s different layers on each one of those characters that I get to play.”
“I think there’s such power in storytelling,” Fisher says. “When we all sit down together in a room and we’re like, ‘okay, we’re going to tell you a story,’ and then sort of letting our imaginations run wild. And Ghost Quartet offers that same possibility.”