The theatrical production “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County” is not easy to classify, says composer and lyricist John Mellencamp, who joined forces on the show with producer T-Bone Burnett and an unusual librettist – horror author Stephen King. It began as a Southern Gothic tale of two squabbling teenage brothers, locked in a haunted cabin by their father where – after visitations from the spirits of other historical dead brothers – they finally learn fraternal unity. But – after spawning an all-star soundtrack last year — it evolved into the streamlined version that hits The City this weekend, starring Billy Burke and Gina Gershon as parents Joe and Monique McCandless. Mellencamp elaborates on his pet project.
Are you coming to San Francisco for the two-night run?
I know that I’m going to be at the first show. It just depends on how much work Steve and I think needs to still be done on it. We’re still looking at it like, “Would it make it better if we do this?” Because this thing has gone through a lot of changes.
Your initial plan was to have the songs represent several generations of American music, right?
Yes. But the songs are very specific now, a very specific type and style. And the characters have evolved tremendously. The first showing of this was done in Atlanta a few years ago, and it was presented as a traditional Broadway show. And Steve and I wanted to kill ourselves. So we had to revamp it. Now it’s more of a play with music than a musical.
Do you have a brother?
That’s how I got introduced to musicals, because my older brother was the star, in the ’60s, of all the high school musicals. And of course when your older brother plays the lead role, your parents insist that you go to see “South Pacific,” “Kismet,” you name it. And we had a very ambitious choir director doing very serious stuff in Seymour, Ind. during the ’60s. I was in early junior high, and he was a senior, so I went to many, many musicals. And as I got older, I kept going, because I liked it.
What’s your brother doing now?
He tried to be in a rock band, but he had a Broadway voice. So he was in a group called Pure Jam that made a couple of record on Chess, but they didn’t go anywhere. So my brother Joe is now vice president of a big company. But if we ever get in trouble with the male lead for “Ghost Brothers,” I can always have him play the part. I have confidence that he could do it.
IF YOU GO
Ghost Brothers of Darkland County
Where: SHN Curran Theatre, 445 Geary St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Dec. 5-6
Tickets: $57 to $107
Contact: (888) 746-1799, www.shnsf.com