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Thursday, February 28, 2008

King, Mellencamp collaboration marks Atlanta's second King musical premiere

click to enlarge carriewhite.jpg

The big world-premiere musical of the Alliance Theatre’s 2008-2009 season will mark a collaboration between a pair of all-American icons, rock star John Mellencamp and horror novelist Stephen King. Ghost Brothers of Darkland County takes place in 1957 Mississippi and dramatizes an old legend about the deaths of two brothers and a young girl. The Alliance Theatre officially announces the rest of its season Feb. 29.

The Tony Award-winning Alliance Theatre has become a go-to playhouse for regional tryouts in anticipation of Broadway runs, with previous world-premiere musicals including Elton John’s Elaborate Lives (which opened in New York under the name Aida), The Color Purple and last fall’s The Women of Brewster Place. Sister Act: The Musical notwithstanding, most of those shows had literary roots and slick, Broadway-ready orchestrations. Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, coming from the singer of “Jack and Diane” and the author of The Body (filmed as Stand By Me) and Shawshank Redemption, sounds like a more unusual project, probably with plenty of country, zydeco, blues and other “roots” rock.

This isn’t the first King-inspired musical to have its world premiere in Atlanta, however.

In 2002, Dad’s Garage Theatre staged Carrie White: The Musical, a satire of King’s debut novel Carrie. Dad’s Garage’s former artistic director Sean Daniels had long sought to stage the disastrous, authorized adaptation Carrie: The Musical, one of the most notorious theatrical flops in history, but couldn’t get permission. So Daniels and George Faughnan wrote a parody version (with original music and lyrics by Joel Abbott), starring tall, lanky Faughnan as a repressed high school girl with hidden powers of telekinesis (played by Sissy Spacek in the film version). Faughnan is one of Atlanta's funniest performers and Doyle Reynolds delivered a barn-burning drag performance as Carrie's Jesus-freak mother. Despite the creators’ fascination with the material, the show didn’t quite work: The grim revenge tale didn’t easily lend itself to campy musicalization.

Incidentally, I had no idea this was in the offing when I did my "Reading Stephen King" posts earlier this month. I suspect the hand of the supernatural was involved.

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