The southern gothic, supernatural musical “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County,” written by Stephen King with music by John Mellencamp and T Bone Burnett, has confirmed a tour of 20 American cities throughout the Midwest and Southeast beginning Oct. 10 in Bloomington and ending Nov. 6 in Grand Rapids, Mich. The musical will be performed at the Embassy Theatre in Fort Wayne at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 24.
This extraordinary collaboration, 13 years in the making, is a haunting tale of fraternal love, lust, jealousy and revenge, that will be performed by an ensemble cast of 15 actors and a four-piece live band. The album of the musical will be released on June 4 via Hear Music and the Concord Music Group.
“The Ghost Brothers of Darkland County” saga began when Mellencamp told King about a cabin on his land in Indiana where two brothers had gotten in a fight over a girl; one brother accidentally killing the other, only to die along with the girl in a car crash a short time later. King came up with an outline for a play in a matter of days. And then off and on, back and forth, they began to develop it into a full-length musical.
The superb blues ‘n’ roots music of Ghost Brothers reflects the wide range of styles and influences needed for a work that jumps back and forth across decades. Rather than use the songs to propel the play’s narrative, as in a conventional musical, Mellencamp chose to make them a way to reveal the emotions and inner workings of the characters.
Set in the tiny town of Lake Belle Reve, Miss., 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 the story emerged during the writing of the musical, it became clear to the collaborators that Ghost Brothers had taken them into unfamiliar territory — and they liked it that way. “John can make rock and roll records and I can write books for the rest of our lives,” says King, “but that’s the safe way to do it, and that’s no way to live if you want to stay creative. We were willing to be educated, and at our age, that’s an accomplishment.”
Putting King’s words and Mellencamp’s songs on the stage is in the skilful hands of acclaimed director Susan Booth, who calls the musical a “a kind of new age traveling medicine show.” “This is a gothic story-driven rock concert,” says Booth. “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.”
Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday, May 17, at the Embassy box office, aeglive.com andTicketmaster outlets. Reserved seats are $39.50, $56.50 and $66.50.