If you’re looking for a show that will take you back to the Golden Age of Broadway, look no further than Ghostlight, a musical by Tim Realbuto and Matthew Martin that follows the story of Olive Thomas. Exploring famous theatre legends, this haunting musical pays tribute to stars from days gone by. You can buy tickets here, and read on to find out what writer/director Tim Realbuto has to say about the show.
Me: How would you describe your show in one sentence?
Tim Realbuto: A fantasy based on truth.
Me: What has the process been like co-directing the show for NYMF?
Tim: It’s actually been great. We’ve been really close friends for over twenty years, so we have a pretty good shorthand with each other. We created this piece together. We know these characters inside and out, so it’s been absolutely thrilling seeing our vision come to life. We’re usually on the same page with things, but if one of us has a completely different opinion on something, we’ve been good about explaining our reason for it and trying to come up with a healthy compromise that works for both of us.
Me: Ghostlight is your first musical. What has the development process been like leading up to this production?
Tim: Ghostlight was just an idea several years ago. The original concept was not to focus solely on our main character Olive Thomas, but to also incorporate many other theatrical legends said to haunt New York City theatres. After going back and forth for quite some time, we finally realized that Olive’s story was one that needed to be told. Our new concept was trying to discover what makes a person’s story here on earth unfinished. Why does Olive Thomas still haunt the New Amsterdam Theatre on Broadway? After much research and visits to her grave, we knew this piece would be somewhere between a biography of Olive’s life and a celebration of the Golden Age of Broadway. That concept turned into a song or two, which turned into an outline for a story. From there, we really sat down and worked on the script, discovering each character and each song moment by moment. Well, when we added up all of those moments and did our first reading of the show, it ran approximately 4 ½ hours. Obviously, cutting had to be done. Characters and songs were cut and/or replaced. By the time we did our second reading, we felt like it had a clearer structure, but it still ran about 3 ½ hours. After more research and development (and cutting), we finally felt ready to do our first professional Equity staged reading. The reading took place at the beginning of this year at Center Stage New York. The runtime was still slightly longer than it is now, but we felt like it was a very good representation of the vision we always had. Then, we got a call from NYMF inviting us into this year’s festival and naturally we jumped at the amazing opportunity.
Me: While a lot of new musicals are trying to go more modern, Ghostlight seems very much about the Golden Age of Broadway. What attracted you to writing this kind of show?
Tim: We believe that all kinds of shows deserve a place in theatre. We absolutely love rock shows, jukebox musicals and film adaptations! But as you said, a lot of new musicals are going modern. We were very intrigued with writing a piece that pays homage to the great artists who’ve paved the way for us, while still connecting to a modern audience. We really like the idea of being the odd man out in a sea of pop/rock scores. That being said, we think younger people will enjoy the sound of our show since it’s still modern, but in a classic way.
Me: What are you most looking forward to about NYMF?
Tim: First and foremost, we’re just really excited to see our vision come to life and to present our work to New York audiences. We think that a lot of people will be able to relate to the story and we hope that it moves many people. We’re also incredibly excited to showcase our extraordinary cast. Every member of the company has been an indelible part of the process. It’s humbling to watch people we’ve admired for so long respond so strongly to our material. Rachel York and Michael Hayden are two of Broadway’s most impeccable and seamless actors, who have lifted this show to a whole new level beyond anything we could have dreamed. Daisy Eagan makes her long-awaited return to the New York stage with a performance that is intricately beautiful and heartbreaking. Kimberly Faye Greenberg and Matt Leisy are absolutely perfect in roles that seem built just for them. And Rachael Fogle, in the central role of Olive Thomas, is giving one of the most star-making performances New York has seen in years.
But most of all, we just want to tell Olive’s story because it deserves to be told. Her time on earth was cut so short and we want her to have her moment in the spotlight. We hope she would be proud of this show. If even one person leaves the theatre affected by the piece or moved by her story, then we’ve done our job.