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Rounding up what’s being written about Alliance’s ‘Ghost Brothers’

By Howard Pousner
hpousner@ajc.com

Reviews and other coverage of the Alliance Theatre’s world premiere of the Stephen King-John Mellencamp musical “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County” are showing up in newspapers and on blogs. Here’s a roundup of what’s out there so far:

Reviews

  • Atlanta Journal-Constitution reviewer Bert Osborne gave the production a rare grade of “A.” “All the advance hype surrounding ‘Ghost Brothers’ has been somewhat scary,” he wrote. “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 [Alliance artistic director] Susan V. Booth, the Alliance production lives up to it with an almost supernatural ease.” www.accessatlanta.com/atlanta-events/ghost-brothers-of-darkland-1415099.html
  • Variety critic Frank Rizzo: “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. …

“While giving the show some percussive power, [Mellencamp's songs] rarely lift the proceedings emotionally. T. Bone’s Burnett’s music direction and Andy York’s arrangements are tops. …

“But the principal weakness is King’s unfocused storytelling. The pairs of brothers are ill-defined beyond a few broad strokes and the dialogue is clunky and crude. By the end of the show, you may be yearning for ‘Carrie.’ … [Director Booth] doesn’t help matters with a lot of the playing done upstage, characters wandering in and out of the cabin for little purpose, tableau vivant poses and lovers’ leaps that are almost comic.” www.variety.com/review/VE1117947386

  • Creative Loafing critic Curt Holman: “Mellencamp’s driving beats and catchy melodies, largely influenced by country, rock, and blues, have an instrumental richness and auditory clarity like I’ve never heard in a stage musical. …  [Ghost Brothers] constructs sequences of enormous dramatic impact, but as a whole, the new play doesn’t hang together as smoothly. …

“Over the years the Alliance has debuted stage musicals of national interest, from ‘Aida’ to ‘Bring It On,’ which left few memories outside of the big stunts or giant props. ‘Ghost Brothers’ instead proves to be a unique, risky, and ambitious show uninterested in offering audiences splashy escapism. It may still be in the process of self-discovery, but King and Mellencamp should keep digging into the material.” www.clatl.com/atlanta/past-haunts-present-in-the-alliance-theatres-long-awaited-ghost-brothers/Content?oid=5199009

Other recent coverage

3 comments Add your comment

FM Fats

April 15th, 2012
9:09 pm

We saw it Friday night. The staging is great and the music is terrific (and I’m not a big Mellencamp fan). It’s well worth seeing, but yeah, it needs some work. Guarini was better than I expected and Hensley wasn’t as good as I expected. Hensley has too much of a Broadway voice for this rootsy music. The story can be hard to follow and needs to be cleaned up.

Jessica

April 16th, 2012
12:41 pm

I have seen it three times, and I have love it more each time. The first time that I saw it I was tepid in my reaction it despite my love ofe the music, but after the second time, I realized that this show is full of Kingism and has the makings of a hit. It does need a bit of tweaking here and there. A major overhaul, however, might ruin the magic. If you look at early reviews of Wicked, you would think it would only last six months. Look where it is now.

Here are a couple of more reviews:

http://www.atlantatheaterfans.com/2012/04/ghost-brothers-ofdarkland-county-atlanta-theater-fans-review/

http://www.artsatl.com/2012/04/review-%e2%80%9cghost-brothers%e2%80%9d-soars-with-mellencamp%e2%80%99s-music-but-is-very-much-a-work-in-progress/

Mike

April 16th, 2012
1:48 pm

The New York Post review is amazingly malicious coming from someone who’s never even seen the show.

I’ve often heard that snobs who live in big cities aren’t nearly as worldly as people who live elsewhere, because they think that what they have is so much better than everything else. This certainly proves it. He probably hasn’t given any thought to Georgia since “the Dukes of Hazzard.”