THEATER REVIEW:
Ghost (Jan. 17 - Feb. 3; Ages 10+)
Nashville Children's Theatre (NCT)
25 Middleton St., Nashville
615-252-4675 | nashvillect.org
Remaining showtimes: Fri 7 p.m., Sat - Sun 2 p.m. (no show on Jan. 20)
Tickets: $21 adults, $16 youth

It's been exciting to experience all the great things happening at NCT since Executive Artistic Director Ernie Nolan came on board. Among this new era of growth is the formation of The NCT Hatchery. It's an incubator for the creation of new theatrical works for young audiences.

The Hatchery's phenomenal first result is the world premiere of Ghost. The play is based on Jason Reynold's first book in a series about a middle school track team. Idris Goodwin's stage adaptation is precise. Furthermore, Jon Royal's direction is superb. In addition, Scott Leathers' exquisite arching scenic design adds dramatic depth to the stage, perfect for the unfolding story.

A COMPELLING STORY

In the story, middle schooler Castle Crenshaw (his nickname is "Ghost") has a troubled past. His father is incarcerated for firing a gun at  Ghost and his mother. He has a tendency to get in trouble at school when he's teased and picked on for how he's dressed and for living in the poor side of town.

Ghost loves to run and has spent his life running from things, including himself. However, his young life takes a new direction when he winds up being recruited onto an elite middle school track team. The track and field setting is the perfect analogy for a story that explores much about individuality within the framework of being a member of a team. It also speaks to the truth of how competition can bring out one's best self and the benefit of having a support system.

It's also a compelling story about accountability, the major characteristic Ghost's coach works to instill in him. Coach also offers Ghost a valuable truth that everyone in the audience can apply to their own lives: "You can't run away from who you are, but what you can do is run toward who you want to be."

With a solid cast of familiar faces and those making their NCT debut, the dramatic story is captivating for kids and adults alike. Gerold Oliver shines in his starring role as Ghost. He delivers a funny and sharp performance and gives his character a believable transformation.

Joel Diggs' equally powerful portrayal of Coach results in a strong, authentic relationship between the two, especially in the midst of the emotionally vulnerable conversations the two share.

Cameron Mitchell (Sunny/Brandon), Chip Arnold (Mr. Charles/Principal Marshall), Tamiko Robinson Steele (Mrs. Hollow, Terri/Tia), Jordan White (Lu) and Nikkita Staggs (Patina/Monique/Shamika) round out the amazingly talented cast.

NCT's Ghost is a powerful story of hope in the face of adversity, and it's a big success for The NCT Hatchery's first effort.