There’s a scene in Ghost — without a doubt the most famous scene from the 1990 film — where Molly (Demi Moore) is joined behind her pottery wheel by the spirit of her murdered boyfriend, Sam (the late Patrick Swayze), and the two … uhm … make pottery.
The scene returns for Temple Theatre’s Ghost: The Musical, which opens this Thursday and runs through Nov. 4 on the historic Downtown Sanford stage. And to prepare for it, Hailey Best — who returns as the lead role after successful turns in Temple shows Beauty and the Beast, Legally Blonde and My Fair Lady — actually put in some training with area potters so she wouldn’t look like a complete novice for this crucial number.
She is, after all, in the heart pottery country.
“I’d never touched pottery before this experience,” she says. “Luckily, Stuart Rose, our assistant stage manager, has experience, and he’s taught me the basics. I’m not skilled, but I’m learning. I hope people will go light on me with the critiques when they see it.”
Ghost The Musical is Temple Theatre’s second show of the 2018-19 Main Stage season, following the successful run of 1776 in September. While based on the movie that was nominated for Best Picture earned Whoopi Goldberg an Oscar for best supporting actress, the musical is actually a 2011 adaptation that opened in England and ran for 136 performances on Broadway in 2012.
Directed by Bill Saunders, Ghost brings back Best in the role of Molly and surrounds her with three Temple newcomers in the other starring roles. Dave Toole, coming off rave reviews in Theatre Raleigh’s recent production Once, is Sam; while La’Tonya Wiley, most recently in Cape Fear Regional Theatre’s Crowns, takes on the role made famous by Whoopi, Oda Mae. Andrew Wade is Sam’s best friend, Carl, while Patrick Holt, Jarrett Bennett, Thao Nyguen, Hannah Duncan, Najha Kay Forbey and Morgan Piner round out the cast.
Saunders , who’s directing his first Temple show after starring in numerous past productions, says his production will be more intimate and character-driven than the Broadway show starring Caissie Levy (currently Elsa in Broadway’s Frozen). He needed a strong cast to pull that off, and he’s certain he has it.
Saunders played the villain to Dave Toole’s protagonist in Rock of Ages in Raleigh last summer and developed a friendship with Ghost’s leading man. “He’s got an incredible voice and just such a magnetism on stage,” he says. “And that’s what you need in this role. After 30 minutes, he’s a ghost, and he’s affecting everything that’s going on around him.”
For Oda Mae, Saunders needed a commanding presence. He says he’s found that in La’Tonya Wiley.
“You want bits of what Whoopi put into that role, but you also want someone who can give it her own spin,” he says. “I saw her in Crowns in Fayetteville, which is a church musical, and she just has a set of pipes on her you wouldn’t believe. And a great sense of humor. I told Peggy [Taphorn, Temple artistic director], she would do perfectly.”
He needed an actor with a great voice and a somewhat menacing side for Carl, so Taphorn suggested Andrew Wade, whom she worked with at the Broadway Rose Theater in Portland, Oregon. The three “newbies” have stayed in the “cast house” in Sanford during rehearsals and have bonded “like they’ve been friends for a long time,” Saunders says.
It helps that they’re led by Best, who’s now become a Temple veteran in between performances and auditions in New York and abroad. “Hailey is amazingly talented and works really hard,” Saunders says. “There are lots of actors who are great at one of those, but to find that combination in someone who commits to her role from the very first rehearsal — that’s hard to find. She has a big fanbase in this state from being a former Miss North Carolina, and now she has a big fanbase in Sanford. She’s done amazing things for us.”
Best credits her decision to return to Sanford on not only the people who run Temple Theatre, but the community as a whole. The local hospitality, she says, has already won over some of her co-stars.
“Temple Theatre offers me an artistic freedom that I don’t always get,” Best says. “Peggy’s mission is to help performers grow, whether it’s in academy classes or on the professional main stage, and I trust her. I know she has my best interest at heart. And the hospitality here is just so different. The out-of-towners arrived here for this show and had care packages ready for them. Temple supporters cook meals for us or invite us over for cookouts. It’s nice to feel so welcome. It’s like an extended family. A second home.”
As for the pottery, Best says her training for this show has sparked what could become a hobby for her down the line. She calls making pottery “therapeutic.”
“It’s relaxing,” she says. “I told my mom I can see why [Molly] would turn to that whenever she’s grieving the loss of a loved one. It’s something I might want to continue doing long after this show.”
Ghost The Musical is directed by Bill Saunders. Jacob Toth is the choreographer, and Katherine Anderson is the show’s music director.