By Adam Hetrick - Playbill
Tony Award nominee Emily Skinner and Bruce Greenwood star in the theatrical concert version of the Stephen King-John Mellencamp musical Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, which launches a tour Oct. 10 in Bloomington, IN.
The limited tour, which plays cities in the Midwest and Southeast, is staged by Alliance artistic director Susan V. Booth, who also helmed the 2012 Atlanta premiere of Ghost Brothers. 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.
Skinner (Side Show, Billy Elliot), who was part of the Alliance premiere, plays Monique McCandless opposite Greenwood ("Thirteen Days," "Flight" "Startrek") as Joe McCandless.
Also featured are Lucas Kavner and Joe Tippett as brothers Frank and Drake McCandless, respectively, with Kylie Brown as Anna, Peter Albrink as Jack McCandless, Travis Smith as Andy McCandless, Eric Moore as Dan Coker, Kate Ferber as Jenna Farrell, Jake LaBotz as The Shape, Joe Jung as Newt Hoggenbeck, Zac Ballard as Young Joe, Jesse Lenat as The Zydeco Cowboy, and Rob Lawhon and Gwen Hughes in the ensemble.
The band includes Andy York, Dane Clark, Jon Gunnell and Troye Kinnett.
Ghost Brothers has lighting by Steven Cohen and choreography by Liza Genaro.
The concert-style presentation, according to a representative for Ghost Brothers, has been completely reconceived since the Atlanta premiere. The staging is suggestive, with lighting and sparse scenic elements, and there is not typical theatrical blocking or costumes. It has musical direction by T Bone Burnett.
According to presenters, "The macabre story will feature a chorus of actors and singers, and musicians featuring members of Mellencamp’s band. The staging of Ghost Brothers will be an amalgam of different styles – both old fashioned, resembling in many ways an old-style radio show, and yet, modern and unique in its interactive use of actors, singers and musicians in order to move the Ghost Brothers story forward incorporating a mix of storytelling, music and singing."
Booth characterizes the new incarnation as "a kind of new age travelling medicine show. This is a gothic story-driven rock concert. 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."
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."
A studio album of Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, recorded in 2010, was released June 4 from Hear Records.
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)
Oct. 11 Louisville, KY (Whitney Hall)
Oct. 12 Knoxville, KY (Knoxville Civic Auditorium)
Oct. 13 Asheville, NC (Thomas Wolfe Auditorium)
Oct. 16 Nashville, TN (Ryman Auditorium)
Oct. 17 Evansville, IN (Aiken Theatre at The Centre)
Oct. 18 Indianapolis, IN (Clowes Memorial Hall)
Oct. 19 Akron, OH (Akron Civic Theatre)
Oct. 22 Columbus, OH (Palace Theatre)
Oct. 23 Bloomington, IN (Indiana University Auditorium)
Oct. 24 Ft. Wayne, IN (Embassy Theatre)
Oct. 25 Madison, WI (Overture Hall)
Oct. 26 Rockford, IL (Coronado Performing Arts Center)
Oct. 29 Milwaukee, WI (Riverside Theatre)
Oct. 31 Minneapolis, MN (State Theatre)
Nov. 1 Sioux City, IA (Orpheum Theatre)
Nov. 2 Ames, IA (Stephens Auditorium)
Nov. 3 Davenport, IA (Adler Theatre)
Nov. 5 South Bend, IN (Morris Performing Arts Center)
Nov. 6 Grand Rapids, MI (DeVos Performance Hall)