Stephen King Fans & Musical Lovers Unite
What do you get when you mix libretto by Stephen King, music and lyrics by John Mellencamp, and musical direction by T-Bone Burnett into a theatrical production? Well to quote Bruce Greenwood, touring star of Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, you get “A Prairie Home Companion on mushrooms.” But to quote Big D, you get “a musical a dude can enjoy.”
If the term musical gives you the shivers – and not the good kind that reading a King book can spawn – don’t worry. According to the website, even Mellencamp prefers to call this show “a play with music.”
One of the perks of being a guitar guy in Nashville is meeting some very cool, and yes, sometimes very famous musicians and actors. One of the perks of being a guitar guy’s wife is that sometimes those two qualities collide: cool + famous. This was last week’s luck when Bruce Greenwood (The Republic of Love, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, Dinner for Schmucks, Star Trek) turned out to be a heckuva-nice guy and offered Big D comped tickets to see Ghost Brothers at the Ryman.
Luck was exactly what we were feeling when we picked up our tickets at will call with “Section 13, Seat 13” printed on my ticket; and read on the program that this musical was “13 years in the making . . .” 13 happens to be a very good number for us, and with Stephen King’s name at the top of the program, it just felt right.
Guitars in hand, the story is set up by two figures – one light and reassuring – one dark and B-A-D. Mellencamp’s ability to write multiple styles and subject matters stands out immediately. Old fashioned country is represented by the fair radio DJ, and rock music by the sinister Shape.
With each new song, the story intensifies, the genres keep coming, and the actors nail them all. Dan, played by Eric Moore sings gospel that will make you want to shout, “Halleluiah!” Monique, played by Emily Skinner could give Reba McEntire a run for her money. Anna, played by Kylie Brown has a killer belt. And as it turns out, Bruce Greenwood is not only a heckuva-nice guy, but a heckuva-good singer too. His warm, yet husky blues-style vocals made many female audience members scream with enthusiasm. Back these artists up with Mellencamp’s band, and what could go wrong? Well, it is a Stephen King story, so you can probably guess. . .
. . . jealousy, secrets, and (I don’t think I’m giving too much away to mention this, it’s titled Ghost Brothers after all) death. Among King’s dark gifts, is his ability to make you laugh despite of, or maybe, because of these topics. Laugh we did, and flinch, and gasp, and jump to our feet for an ovation, and leave the theatre feeling great.
Ghost Brothers of Darkland County is currently touring, and heading north. My advice? GO SEE IT!