The making of a musical in NoHo

Making of a new old-fashion musical. THE GROUP REP to Premiere New Musical THE GHOST OF GERSHWIN

The Ghost of Gershwin musical at The Group Rep

THE GHOST OF GERSHWIN, a new old-fashioned musical, will open Friday, May 9th at the Lonny Chapman Theatre located on the edge of the NoHo Arts District.

Based on an original idea by Wayland Pickard, book by Doug Haverty, music by Pickard, lyrics by Pickard and Laura Manning, with additional lyrics by Haverty, this world premiere musical boasts all new music in the style of George and Ira Gershwin.

The show is directed by theatre veteran Jules Aaron and choreographed by Michele Bernath. Richard Alan Woody and Leah Shaw produce on behalf of GRT.

When asked how he got the idea for the musical Wayland Pickard said, “I have always been a fan of both history and ghost stories, so it seemed like a perfect match! I’ve been an ardent student of George Gershwin’s music for years and had always wondered what he might have written had he lived longer. The fact that Gershwin died suddenly at 38 seems unfair to the world. Gershwin had just started to peak as a composer. I had to wonder how fun it would be if his spirit came back. Now, in this instance, George Gershwin’s reason for coming back is to provide guidance to a young composer about how to best to live life.”

As the final show in the Group Rep’s 40th Anniversary season, it is a true collaborative effort that showcases the company’s depth of talent. GRT’s co-artistic director, Larry Eisenberg brought the musical to Jules Aaron, who was charmed by Wayland Pickard’s music and thought that Doug Haverty was the perfect choice to write the book.

For a sampling of the music, please view the YouTube music video


Doug Haverty has known Wayland for years but had never worked with him. Haverty agreed to take on the project with the stipulation that he would start from scratch using Pickard’s concept: George Gershwin’s ghost is called back from the dead to help a young composer, Grant, learn to live his life more fully and to inspire him to write the lyrics for his “Gershwin infused” melodies. He built the story around the music. “In essence,” said Haverty, “I was creating a jukebox musical, treating the existing new songs as hits.” In the course of writing, four more songs were written as well as a new instrumental number.

Aaron has really enjoyed being part of the process. “Doug has fashioned a book around the songs and set the play in a show business apartment in Brooklyn, where different artists drop in and out, much like the charming musicals of the 1930s. There are colorful characters, a love triangle and there is song and dance (courtesy of choreographer Michele Bernath and assistant musical director Paul Cady), including tap, rumba, jitterbug, dancing ala Fred and Ginger. It’s five drafts later, and as with any new musical, we’re still fine tuning.”

That fine tuning is made easier because of the talents of the cast, which includes Jean Altadel, Emma-Jayne Appleyard, Kyle Bares, Andrew Bourgeois, Gregory Guy Gorden, Daniel Lench, and Suzy London.

“We’re thrilled to have this show be seen,” says Aaron. “The Ghost of Gershwin is a chance to bring audiences an old-fashioned musical that’s charming, tuneful and touching. After all, don’t we all need to learn how to live our lives fully and treasure each moment?”

The Ghost of Gershwin opens Friday, May 9th at 8pm, and runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, with Sunday matinees at 2pm, through June 22, 2014.

General admission tickets are $22, with discounts for Seniors/Students: $17 and Groups of 10 or more: $15.

For tickets and information please visit or call (818) 763-5990.

The Ghost of Gershwin

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Lisa Bianconi
Author: Lisa Bianconi

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