The reviews are coming in on the Alliance Theater's production of Ghost Brothers. I'll kind of compile them and post quotes and links here, adding to the post as I find more reviews.
True to his master storytelling abilities, King has crafted a deeply layered story with complex characters that spans two generations of the McCandless family. Equally as textured, Mellencamp’s music and lyrics, along with T Bone Burnett’s music direction, add much more depth to the story. As enjoyable as the show is, it will simmer for a while after you leave the theater.
The pairing of roots rocker John Mellencamp and horror scribe Stephen King for a Southern Gothic musical may sound irresistible. But it takes more than a groove and gore to make this tedious tale of brotherly bile work on stage. Sketchy character development, awkward staging and unclear storytelling make prospects for future life iffy beyond this world preem at Atlanta's Alliance Theater.
All the advance hype surrounding “Ghost Brothers” has been somewhat scary, too. How could it not be, as a world-premiere (no doubt Broadway-bound) collaboration between none other than Stephen King, John Mellencamp and T Bone Burnett? But never fear: Under the mesmerizing direction of our very own Susan V. Booth, the Alliance production lives up to it with an almost supernatural ease.
As a prolific novelist, King is a legendary master of suspense. As a first-time playwright, he doesn’t really break new ground so much as he sticks to what he does best. Indeed, “Ghost Brothers” might impress as a freaky paranormal morality tale on the surface, but at its core it spins a story as ancient as Cain and Abel -- or, for one dysfunctional family living in backwoods Mississippi circa 2007, as recent as a mysterious tragedy from 40 years earlier.
NY Post (Note: the post did not actually see the play, they compiled a couple of insider quotes from elsewhere):
"Ghost Brothers of Darkland County,” a musical King’s written with John Mellencamp, opened this week at the Alliance Theater in Atlanta. And while the localyokel critic called SusanBooth’s direction “mesmerizing,” toughminded Broadway insiders who caught the show say she should be interred in “Pet Sematary.”
“The music is excellent, and the story’s pretty good, but this production can’t work in NewYork,” one of my spies says. “They have to get rid of the director.”
Another source says: “The first act is confusing. There’s too much going on and the pacing is slack. The director seems more interested in showing off what she can do at her theater than in putting together a coherent production. There are lots of special effects, like a full-size car that appears for about 15 seconds. It’s pointless.”
Few world premieres get it all right the first time. With some tightening and first-act restructuring, the ambitious “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County” holds exceptional promise. Die-hard Mellencamp and King fans will probably want to see it for the spectacle, but it’s not yet quite where it needs to be.
While the story takes a bit too long to develop, the music takes your mind off that. Mellencamp created a soundtrack of music that should be recorded and released as soon as possible; just please use the original cast. He uses a four-piece band to create a mix of his signature classic rock (reminding you that he was the guy behind “Little Pink Houses”) and a touch of something it seems he has been wanting to experiment with for a long time, to create the style of music you cannot help but like.
This musical challenges the traditional rules of Broadway, and in doing so will probably never run in New York; but it is good.
But, as with any King story, good and evil commanded the stage in this gothic tale of brotherly-love-gone-awry. Christopher Morgan played the hell out of Dan, an angelic ghost who tends bar and meddles in the McCandless's business while soothing papa Joe in an otherworldly honkytonk where he sips - and spills - decades of painful memories. As entertaining as Ghost Brothers was during Act I, I was so starved for a moment of gut-wrenching emotion, I almost ran up on stage to hug Morgan (whose credits include Kiss Me Kate and Five Guys Named Moe) during the first-half finale, "Tear This Cabin Down." What a voice! This theatregoer will definitely pay closer attention to the Alliance's calendar if Morgan's on the bill...
More to come.