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Ghost Song

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"Those you've known
And lost still walk behind you
All alone
They linger till they find you..."
Moritz, Spring Awakening: "Those You've Known"

Sometimes, things in musical theatre can get a little weird. Or perhaps they were unusual from the start, and this is the logical conclusion. For whatever reason, every once in a while, a ghost is bound to pop up and sing a musical number, often as a warning or encouragement to The Hero. Sometimes the ghost is of someone who died in the course of the show, or of someone dead long before the overture. In any case, it can be a powerful device if used properly. These songs (and/or sequences) tend to be played for surrealism.

Subtrope of Dead Person Conversation, which is not necessarily musical, but which is based in the same principle. Compare The Dead Can Dance. Not to be confused with the video game of the same name nor with the song of the same name by The Doors.


  • In Allegro, Joe's mother Marjorie sings "Come Home" to him posthumously. (Cut material also includes a few sung lines for her in the wedding scene that ends the first act, which she suddenly dies prior to.)
  • Anastasia: Many scenes include the ghostly figures of Anya's dead and half-forgotten family who contribute background vocals, serve as symbols of Anya's memories and past, and add dramatic contrast to certain scenes. Not an outright example since they don't sing anything beyond background vocals and a dream sequence, but definitely still applicable.
  • During a funeral in Antonia's Line, the dead woman sits up and starts singing. However, this is implied to be simply her granddaughter's vivid imagination.
  • In Beauty and the Beast (Golden 1999), the three ghost narrators sing "Live Like a King" to Beauty's father.
  • Half of the characters in Beetlejuice are ghosts, so this pretty much comes with the territory. "The Whole Being Dead Thing" and "Fright of Their Lives" in particular are about introducing the audience/characters to death and ghost-hood.
  • "The Letter" from the musical version of Billy Elliot fits, being sung (in part) by Billy's dead mother.
  • Carousel (Technically, anything Billy sings after his death.)
  • Cats has "Firefrorefiddle", a strange, specter-like entity, prancing about occasionally in the Gus the theatre cat song. It's not a literal ghost, but rather the memory of Gus's greatest role taking on a life of its own.
  • Any musical version of A Christmas Carol is going to have at least one of these. Even if you don't count the spirits as ghosts for purposes of this trope (and its supertrope Dead Person Conversation), Marley nearly always has a song of his own.
  • In the reprise of "Wie Du" ("Like You") in Elisabeth, the title character asks her father's ghost for guidance. He's unable to help her, just like in the version of the song in which he was alive.
  • In Woody Allen's film Everyone Says I Love You, the ghost of the grandfather interrupts his own funeral to sing "Enjoy Yourself", accompanied by other ghosts who dance out of the funeral home.
  • Fiddler on the Roof has a weird meta example, as the song "Tevye's Dream" is about the lead pretending to have had a dream in which a ghost song occurred, which he is now describing to his wife.
  • Emilie Autumn's Rock Opera Fight Like A Girl has "Goodnight, Sweet Ladies", which is sung by Emily and an Ethereal Choir of dead Asylum girls. "The Key", too, though you wouldn't know until you read the lyrics booklet.
  • Since The Fix begins with his death, any song Senator Reed Chandler is in might qualify. Of course, one of those occasions is while his delinquent son Cal is on drugs, hence the might.
  • In "A Warning to Monty" and "Final Warning" from A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, the spirits of long-dead ancestors of the D'Ysquith clan warn Monty about the danger of attempting to rise above his presumed station in life.
  • In the Ward and White musical, Gutted, Sorrow's murdered parents encourage her to finish what she started in their song 'Kill Him'
  • The song "Grim, Grinning Ghosts" from the Disney attraction 'The Haunted Mansion' probably counts.
  • In Heathers, we have "Yo Girl," being sung by the ghosts of Heather Chandler, Ram Sweeney, and Kurt Kelly. The song starts off slowly but ominously, as the three mock Veronica for her horrible actions, proclaiming that "Now [Veronica is] truly a Heather." It then turns into a a warning when JD breaks into Veronica's room, as the tempo increases greatly.
    Guess who's right down the block?
    Guess who's climbing the stairs?
    Guess who's picking your lock?
    Time's up! Go say your prayers!
  • Into the Woods ("No More", when the Baker is visited by his father, The Mysterious Man, who died at the end of Act One.)
    • Also, right before the Witch sings "Children Will Listen", the Baker's Wife consoles her husband, who is unsure of how to raise their child on his own.
    • Cinderella's Mother's sung parts in "Cinderella at the Grave" and the shoe fitting scene.
    • All of the characters who reappear at the beginning of the final sequence, reprising the "One Midnight Gone" material and delivering their final morals, are ghosts. This presumably includes the Steward, Cinderella's Father, Stepmother and family, who seemingly starved to death before they could find their "hidden kingdom" but excludes the Princes and their new Princesses.
  • The title song in Jesus Christ Superstar is sung by Judas, who has already hung himself.
  • Gustav Mahler's early narrative choral work "Das klagende Lied" has the verses in which the voice of the murdered brother sings out through a bone of his that has been fashioned into a flute.
  • The finale song in Little Shop of Horrors, "Don't Feed The Plants", is fittingly sung by the characters who were eaten by the plant.
  • Les Misérables (During the "Epilogue", the ghosts of Fantine, and then Eponine, visit Valjean in his dying moments to usher him to the afterlife. The final number usually includes all the characters, living and dead.)
    • Inverted with "Empty Chairs At Empty Tables".
  • Gleefully beaten to death in Moby Dick! The Musical. Esta lives for this trope. (Er, well.. you know.)
  • In Mother3, Lord Passion is a dead composer and conductor, who let's objects fly by his music. His theme, Family matters: Second movement is composed by himself.
    • In reality, it's made up from five popular classical songs.
  • Anything Gabe sings in Next to Normal. Especially the ironically-named "I'm Alive". "Aftershocks" also applies, but for an additional reason - Gabe sings it after he has been erased from Diana's head, so he has effectively died twice.
  • Passing Strange (After The Narrator interrupts the idealistic Youth's "Passing Phase" with an abrupt slide to the other end of the scale, his dead Mother returns to stop his depressingly cynical thought process with simple encouragement. "It's all right.")
  • The only characters in Ride the Cyclone are six teenagers who die in a tragic roller coaster accident at the beginning of the show (and one mechanical Fortune Teller who narrates the show). By virtue of their death so early in the show, all the songs they sing are Ghost Songs (possibly with the exception of "Sailing Through Space," which takes place about 10 seconds before they die, and "Uranium," which is a flashback to their senior recital). Every character's signature song ("What the World Needs is People Like Me," "Noel's Lament," "This Song is Awesome"/"Talia," "Space Aged Bachelor Man," "The Ballad of Jane Doe," and "Sugarcloud") is sung with the express knowledge that they're dead and in limbo.
  • "Painted Emblems of a Race" and "When the Night Wind Howls (Sir Roderick's Song)" from Gilbert and Sullivan's Ruddigore, during which the ghosts get down from their painting to scare their descendant into being evil.
  • Almost all of Lily's material in The Secret Garden, especially "Come To My Garden", and a half-ghost duet "How Could I Ever Know".
    • In addition, the Greek Chorus ensemble is comprised of the ghosts of people Mary knew in India, including her parents.
  • Spring Awakening ("Those You've Known," in which post-suicide Moritz and recently-deceased Wendla convince Melchior to move on after Melchior discovers Wendla has died from an abortion of their child.)
  • Sunday in the Park with George ("Move On", in which the spirit of his great-grandmother—the female lead of Act One—visits George and tells him to stop angsting over his work.)
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (The final reprise of "The Ballad" at the end of the show starts with all of the principles—most of whom are dead at this point—singing the first verse in turns, and it all ends with the dead Todd and Lovett leading the company.)
  • In Benjamin Britten's operatic adaptation of The Turn of the Screw, the ghosts of Peter Quinn and Miss Jessel definitely exist, though it's implied that only the children can hear their voices. Quinn's ghost seduces little Miles in a sensuous serenade, and at the beginning of Act 2, the two ghosts use a duet as an expository device.
  • Urinetown (Arguably a flashback, but nevertheless, "Tell Her I Love Her" is a duet between Little Sally and the dead hero Bobby, who has been "sent to Urinetown", as she tells them his last words. Whether his joining in is part of a flashback or a ghost echoing Sally's words differs by production.)
  • In Young Frankenstein, Frederick Frankenstein dreams about his long-dead ancestors visiting and pushing him to fulfill his Mad Scientist destiny in "Join the Family Business".


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Dead Man Singing


Marley & Marley

The Marleys come back to warn Scrooge to change or suffer their fate.

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