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Gothic tale ‘Ghost Brothers’ coming to Civic

10/10/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

“Ghost Brothers of Darkland County,” to be performed at the Akron Civic Oct. 19, is the creation of musicians T Bone Burnett and John Mellencamp and novelist Stephen King, shown from left.
Photo: Kevin Mazur
DOWNTOWN AKRON — The talents of Stephen King, John Mellencamp and T Bone Burnett have been combined to create “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County,” a gothic musical making a stop in Akron Oct. 19.

The Akron Civic Theatre show, starting at 7:30 p.m., is just one of two Ohio dates for the touring production, which is directed by Susan Booth and features TV and movie veteran Bruce Greenwood and Emily Skinner, who earned a Tony nomination for her work in “Side Show.”

“Ghost Brothers” tells the story of two brothers haunted by a murder in their family’s past. It features libretto by King, music and lyrics by Mellencamp and musical direction by Burnett in a project that show officials said was many years in the making.

“John and Steve started working on this project 13 years ago, and I just got involved about three years ago,” said Booth, the artistic director at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre, in an email interview. “I came in at the point when the piece was ready to move from the page to the stage, and I approached it initially as a producer. But the deeper I got into the piece and got to [see] the gents’ passion for it and commitment to it, I asked them to let me step in as director as well.”

The production premiered last year at Alliance Theatre. Earlier this year, a recording of the music, featuring Elvis Costello, Roseanne Cash and Kris Kristofferson, was released.

Booth said the three creators bring their best to the tale.

“It’s hard to beat the pedigrees of the people involved,” she said. “But I was really taken by how idiosyncratic the piece was. This was John Mellencamp writing these beautiful character study songs, Steve King writing a multigenerational family ghost story, and T Bone Burnett creating swampy atmospherics. It’s three brilliant artists all working in their sweet spots to create something brand new.”

She added that the piece doesn’t rely on typical musical theater devices to tell the story.

“The beauty of it is how wonderfully weird and hybrid it is — so instead of rolling out the usual bus and truck of sets and costumes, we thought we’d lean into Stephen’s power as a storyteller who demands his listeners use their imagination, and John’s brilliant way with music,” Booth said. “So we’ve got John’s band, 15 great singers, and the story told simply and without bells and whistles. The end result is gorgeous music, a great story and the audience’s imagination completing the picture.”

Andy York, who’s played guitar for Mellencamp for many years, leads the band, made up of Dane Clark (percussion), Jon Gunnell (upright bass) and Troye Kinnett (keyboards).

Tickets start at $39.50 and are available at www.akroncivic.com or by calling 330-253-2488. For more information about the show, go to www.ghostbrothersofdarklandcounty.com.

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