MUSCATINE, Iowa — Jake Vander Linden might be seeing ghosts, but he's never felt more alive.
Vander Linden, a Muscatine native, is appearing in his first national tour as a performer in "Ghost The Musical." Currently in Florida, the show has already played in San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, Nashville, Tennessee, and St. Louis, among others.
"I'm really passionate about theater and passionate about traveling," said Vander Linden, 24, who now lives in the New York City suburb of Astoria on Long Island in New York.
It was a passion that started at a young age for Jake, according to him and his mother, Tibe Vander Linden.
"From the time he could talk, he was singing," she remembered. "He was always going to be in a play."
Jake recalled first watching musicals at Central Middle School's auditorium and being fascinated by them.
"That was a really big impact on me," he said.
By the age of 7, he was taking vocal lessons and performing country music outside of school at fairs, including the Iowa State Fair. At West Middle School and later Muscatine High School, Jake performed in a variety of shows throughout his time there. He said that Katie Howard, a teacher who worked at a theater director at the time, was a major influence on him.
Graduating from MHS in 2008, he accepted a theater scholarship from Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois. After continuing to hone both his performing and musical talents in university theater and summer stock theater in Abilene, Kansas, he graduated from Millikin with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theater and moved to the New York City area to find work on the New York stage.
After some auditions, he attended an open call audition in 2013 for the new production of "Ghost The Musical." Written by Bruce Joel Rubin, with music and lyrics by Glen Ballard and Dave Stewart, it is a musical adaptation of the 1990 film "Ghost," which starred Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore.
Jake landed a spot in the show's ensemble, and also serves as the understudy for the role of Carl, the show's main villain. The show has been on tour since September 2013.
"It's really exciting, a really great opportunity," Jake said.
He said his favorite stops on the tour so far were Providence, Rhode Island, which he said was one of the most beautiful cities on the trip, and Dallas, where his girlfriend, Kate Hennies, surprised him with a visit. He said despite the eight-show-a-week schedule, the cast still has time to see the sights during the day while on tour.
The show is expected to wrap up its tour in August, and Jake said he is already looking into other performing opportunities in New York.
"That's what happens — when the next job wraps up, you start looking for the next one," he said.