Stephen King Talks His Musical ‘Ghost Brothers of Darkland County,’ John Mellencamp and Why Broadway Isn’t Necessarily Better

T Bone Burnett, John Mellencamp & Stephen King
Kevin Mazur

T Bone Burnett, John Mellencamp & Stephen King collaborated on Ghost Brothers of Darkland County.

Stephen King has already conquered the page and the screen, and now he's eyeing the stage. For the musical Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, he worked for more than a decade alongside creative partner John Mellencamp and musical collaborator T Bone Burnett. The show debuted in 2012 in Atlanta, and this fall hit the road with stars Billy Burke and Gina Gershon through Dec. 6. Want to make your own musical? King, 67, has some pointers.

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Listen to your collaborators...: "In 2000, John pitched me this idea about ghosts in a cabin and a family related to them. Secrets, arguments, sibling rivalry. I said, 'John, I don't know anything about writing a musical.' He said, 'That would be the fun of it.' "

...but not all the time: "John comes up with a lot of ideas: Two will be bullshit, three will be great. He's dedicated, talented and strong-willed. But sometimes I have to say, 'Let's not do that.' "

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Nothing's as scary as red tape: "I don't think either of us realized what an involved process making a play is. I think of it like the Russian politburo. You have to go through a lot of hoops to get funding. Certain union rules you have to follow -- don't ask me what they are."

Broadway isn't necessarily better: "We looked at shows like The Lion King, how big they were, and said, 'Is this what we want?' After all John and I have been through on this show, if a bunch of angels said, 'We want to put this on Broadway with special effects and a big band,' we would probably say, 'F-- off.' No cat suits."

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This article first appeared in the Nov. 29 issue of Billboard.

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