Stephen King-John Mellencamp Musical Ghost Brothers of Darkland County Will Launch Theatrical Concert Tour
By Adam Hetrick
A theatrical concert version of the Stephen King-John Mellencamp musical Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, which had a 2012 world premiere at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, will launch a tour this fall in Bloomington, IN.
The limited tour, which will play cities in the Midwest and Southeast, will be staged by Alliance artistic director Susan V. Booth, who also helmed the premiere. The Gothic southern musical about a decades-old tragedy that haunts the population of a small town has a blues-tinged score by Mellencamp and a book by "Carrie," "Misery" and "The Shining" novelist King.
The concert-style presentation, according to a representative for Ghost Brothers, will employ an ensemble cast of 15 actors and a four-piece band. It has been completely reconceived since the Atlanta premiere, which was met with a lukewarm critical reception.
The staging will be suggestive, with lighting and sparse scenic elements, but there will not be typical theatrical blocking or costumes. It has musical direction by T Bone Burnett.
Booth characterizes the new incarnation as "a kind of new age travelling medicine show. This is a gothic story-driven rock concert," she said. "I want the emphasis to be on this fantastic score and our great singers and how the story advances us from song to song. In most musicals, the songs advance the narrative. With Ghost Brothers, the story will advance the songs."
Casting for the tour has not been announced. The original Atlanta cast featured Tony Award winner Shuler Hensley, Tony nominee Emily Skinner and Justin Guarini.
Here's how it's billed: "Set in the tiny town of Lake Belle Reve, Mississippi, the Ghost Brothers' story centers on two sets of brothers: the ghosts of Jack and Andy, dead in an apparent murder/suicide, and their nephews, the living Frank and Drake, who seem to be headed toward the same downward spiral as their uncles. Joe, younger brother of Jack and Andy, father of Frank and Drake, has decided it's time to reveal his own terrible secret at the site of the tragedy, before it’s too late."
As previously reported, a studio album of Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, recorded in 2010, will be released June 4 from Hear Records. A standard, single-disc version will include the complete songs, dialogue excerpts and digital libretto; while a two-disc format will feature complete songs (with and without dialogue), deluxe artwork, "handwritten lyrics," a libretto and a DVD with a "Making of Ghost Brothers" documentary including interviews with King, Mellencamp and album producer T Bone Burnett along with other bonus material.
The album features performances by Kris Kristofferson in the role of the father, Joe; Elvis Costello as the satanic character The Shape; Roseanne Cash as the mother, Monique; and the sons portrayed by Will Daily (Frank), Dave Alvin (Jack), Phil Alvin (Andy) and Mellencamp (Drake). Sheryl Crow voices Jenna with Neko Case as Anna, boxing legend Joe Frazier as caretaker Dan Coker and novelist King in the role of Uncle Steve. Also featured on the album are actors Matthew McConaughey, Samantha Mathis and Meg Ryan. Glenn Morshower serves as the narrator.
Tour itinerary for the concert production follows:
Oct. 10 Bloomington, IN (Indiana University Auditorium)
Tickets go on sale May 17 at aeglive.com.
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