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Shuler Hensley to lead King-Mellencamp ‘Ghost Brothers’ cast at Alliance

By Howard Pousner

Broadway favorite and Marietta native Shuler Hensley and Emily Skinner (a Tony nominee for “Side Show”) will lead the cast of the Stephen King-John Mellencamp musical “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County,” the Alliance Theatre announced Wednesday.

Also cast: blues musician/film actor Jake La Botz, former Atlantan and “American Idol” runnerup Justin Guarini, country music singer Dale Watson, actor-writer Lucas Kavner; actor-songwriter Kate Ferber (”One Child Born: the Music of Laura Nyro”) and stage-screen actor Christopher Morgan.

Additional cast members include Peter Albrink, Kylie Brown, Lori Beth Edgeman, Gwen Hughes, Joe Jung, Joe Knezevich, Rob Lawhon, Royce Mann and Travis Smith.

Performances of the world premiere, directed by Alliance artistic director Susan V. Booth and with music direction by T Bone Burnett, begin April 4.

At an Alliance season announcement event in May, King described “Ghost Brothers’” plot as being about two teen brothers who drank too much at a dance, drove to the cabin with a girl and drank some more, then had a gun accident that led to a fatal wreck in a car speeding to the hospital. As in most King tales, the deaths are merely part of the creepy backdrop in a dissection of the flaws of human relations.

King recalled Mellencamp approaching him more than a decade ago to collaborate on the chilling story the singer had heard after visiting an Indiana lakeside cabin he was thinking about buying.

Asked if the story were true, King replied: “John Ford in ‘Liberty Valance’ said, ‘If they give you truth and legend, print the legend.’ We printed the legend. I don’t know how much of it’s true. You know what? There’s a story like that about every house, every hotel.”

In Wednesday’s casting announcement, director Booth said, “It’s a pretty extraordinary thing when you get to offer an artistic home to Stephen King, John Mellencamp and T Bone Burnett. This piece is dear to these gents’ hearts and I’m thrilled we’re able to bring it to life at the Alliance Theatre.”

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