John Mellencamp & Stephen King Musical Ready For The Stage

Associated Press

Horror writer Stephen King's first play, The Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, featuring haunting melodies by rocker John Mellencamp, is finally ready for the stage.

The musical was originally scheduled for its debut at Atlanta's Alliance Theatre in 2009 but was postponed. It's now set to open next April at the Alliance.

Mellencamp and the play's director weren't getting along, King said Tuesday at the Alliance's season preview presentation. The new director is Susan Booth, the company's artistic director.

The project originated about 11 years ago, King said.

“John had an idea that he wanted to do a play about ghosts in a cabin and how sibling rivalries and resentments are carried down from generation to generation,” King said.

He said Mellencamp told his agent he wanted a writer like Stephen King and discovered that the two had the same agent.

They got together and agreed to try to write the play, King said. “One of the reasons to do it was because I never had, and John felt the same way.”

King said he outlined a story incorporating live brothers and dead brothers.

“John wanted it to be in the South because he's a big admirer of Tennessee Williams. I was fine with that because I'd been reading a lot of William Faulkner, and those voices were in my head.”

The show eventually may make it to New York, but King said he wasn't thinking big.

“I wrote a play that we aimed at the idea of a small stage, a small cast and small tech requirements, sort of the anti-Spider-Man. John wanted real Americana music, blue jeans music, and I loved that idea. We wanted six or seven instruments, an acoustic kind of sound, like Big River.”

In writing the play, King kept the musical side in mind. “I said, ‘This song goes here, and it's got to be a song about brothers singing to each other who hate each other.’ So John would write a song.”

Mellencamp wrote all the lyrics as well as the music, King said. “Believe me, I can't write songs. Songs and poetry are just outside my field.”