Quote of the Day: Ghost Quartet is a musical song cycle written and composed by Dave Malloy. The show is described as “a song cycle about love, death, and whiskey. A camera breaks and four friends drink in four interwoven narratives spanning seven centuries.” 

Theatre Elision is making Ghost Quartet an annual production, and we are making it an annual tradition to see it! This is the fifth year of Ghost Quartet, and only my second year seeing it. Last year, I brought my son and daughter-in-law. I asked if they wanted to see it again with me, and they quickly said, “Yes!” Plus, I brought another friend. Lily said, “I think I liked it even more the second time seeing it.”

Cast of Ghost Quartet, 2023. Playing at the Elision Playhouse thru 10/28/23. Photo: Jolie Morehouse Olson

Ghost Quartet, gorgeously directed by Lindsay Fitzgerald, is a song cycle, meaning that the songs are connected, but the story is not told in chronological order. It takes careful listening to understand how they’re all connected. You need to accept that it is a ghost story, the characters are fluid, and it spans over several generations. It’s an immersive experience in a small theatre space that feels like Grandma’s attic. Instruments are lying on the floor, placed on old chests, or tucked into the set. Six performers sing and play the instruments, with Harrison Wade as Music Director and pianist. At a couple places in the performance, they hand out instruments to audience members, and we all get to play along. It’s great! Also, during the song “Four Friends,” they pass out shots of whiskey as they sing about four different brands of whiskey. (You need to show ID and get a wrist band if you want a shot, and not everyone gets one. The closer you sit to the stage the better.)

Christine Wade, Abilene Olson Gelsey, and Tristen Sima Dave are the main singers with backup from Maureen O’Malley Brent, Emily Hensley, and Hannah Bakke. All of the singers are terrific. I could go back every night just to listen to them and their haunting melodies and eerily blended harmonies. It’s fun to look at the stage and discover where instruments are hidden that they pull out during certain songs. Sometimes, I’d be so focused on the soloist that I would be surprised when I looked around and saw someone on the xylophone, or quietly bowing on the violin, and noticing where the percussion beat was coming from. The entire performance is fascinating and atmospheric. Because of the intimate space, you feel like you’re up in the attic with the cast, discovering the instruments and hearing them tell these stories. 

Cast of Ghost Quartet, 2023. Playing at the Elision Playhouse thru 10/28/23. Photo: Jolie Morehouse Olson

The creator, Dave Malloy, draws from classic stories like Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, the fairytale Snow White and Rose Red, and 1001 Arabian Nights. You don’t need to know these stories to enjoy the show, but you might find connections if you do. If it’s your first time seeing this show, just sit back and enjoy the fabulous music, feel the atmosphere, and listening for characters or actions that are connected. Then, go back and see it again! My friend, who saw it for the first time with us, loved it so much she had the music on her playlist before we even drove off. 

Ghost Quartet is play at the Elision Playhouse in Crystal, MN through October 28, 2023. Go to Theatre Elision for tickets and showtimes. With this short run and limited seating, grab your tickets fast. You don’t want to miss this truly unique, atmospheric show. The music has been haunting me since I saw it for the first time last year. If they do it again next year, I’ll be there!

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: What are your favorite haunting melodies or songs for spooky season?