Ghost Brothers of Darkland County (stage)


Role: Joe McCandless
Tour: fall 2014

Photo: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times


premiere report

WABI TV5 promo


The southern gothic, supernatural musical Ghost Brothers of Darkland County is a collaboration 16 years in the making, and blend of unique musical and staging styles. It was written by best-selling author Stephen King, with music by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer John Mellencamp, and musical direction by Grammy Award-winning T Bone Burnett.

In the tiny town of Lake Belle Reve, Mississippi in 1967, a terrible tragedy took the lives of two brothers and a beautiful young girl. During the next forty years, the events of that night became the stuff of local legend. But legend is often just another word for lie. Joe McCandless knows what really happened; he saw it all. The question is whether or not he can bring himself to tell the truth in time to save his own troubled sons, and whether the ghosts left behind by an act of violence will help him—or tear the McCandless family apart forever.

Throughout the production, the eerie blues ‘n’ roots music reveals the inner workings of the characters as opposed to just propelling the play’s narrative, with only a few songs directly advancing the plot. The haunting tale of fraternal love, lust, jealousy and revenge, begins with a fractious reunion taking place among members of the McCandless family at their cabin on Lake Belle Reve. There is tension between the paterfamilias, Joe, and his booze-swilling ex-beauty queen wife, Monique, but their relationship is cozy, compared with the feud a-boilin’ between their sons. Frank is the smart achiever, an aspiring novelist who’s just sold his first book for half a million dollars. Drake is a musician whose band definitely hasn’t made the big time, arousing not unnatural jealousy. The antipathy between them has curdled into something like hate because Frank has recently acquired a girlfriend, Anna, who transferred her affections from the more feckless Drake. Joe is watching an all too familiar scenario play out before his eyes and reflects on the tragedy that involved his two older brothers battling over a girl which ended in the unfortunate deaths of all three. With his sons at each other’s throats, Joe’s story will either save or destroy the McCandless family.


Program guide by Denise Dee Metzger


The show debuted at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2012. On September 30, 2014 the full cast for the fall leg of the tour was announced, with actor/writer/producer Billy Burke (The Twilight Saga) and actress/writer/singer Gina Gershon (Killer Joe, House of Versace, Boeing) playing the lead roles of Joe McCandless and Monique McCandless respectively. The tour kicked off right outside Bangor, ME at the Collins Center For The Arts in Orono, ME, on November 8, 2014 before travelling through cities such as Toronto, Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. 
2014 Cast:
Joe McCandless: Billy Burke
Monique McCandless: Gina Gershon
The Shape: Jake La Botz
Zydeco Cowboy: Jesse Lenant
Drake McCandless: Joe Tippett
Frank McCandless: Lucas Kavner
Anna Wicklow Kylie: Brown
Dan Coker: Eric Moore
Andy McCandless: Travis Smith
Jack McCandless: Peter Albrink
Jenna Farrell: Kate Ferber
Young Joe: Zac Ballard
Featured Background Vocalist: Carlene Carter
Newt Hoggenbeck / Ensemble: Joe Jung
Ensemble: Gwen Hughes
Ensemble: Rob Lawhon

Music Supervision & Arrangements, Band Leader, Guitarist: Andy York

Percussion: Dane Clark
Keyboards & Harmonica: Troye Kinnett
Upright Bass: Jon E. Gee

Susan V. Booth

Sat – Nov-08 Orono, ME Collins Center for the Arts
Sun – Nov-09 Orono, ME Collins Center for the Arts
Tue – Nov-11 Toronto, ON Massey Hall
Thu – Nov-13 Philadelphia, PA Merriam Theatre
Fri – Nov-14 Durham, NC Durham Performing Arts Center
Sat – Nov-15 Washington, DC Warner Theatre
Sun – Nov-16 Baltimore, MD The Modell Performing Arts Center at the LYRIC
Tue – Nov-18 Red Bank, NJ Count Basie Theatre
Thu – Nov-20 Portland, ME Merrill Auditorium
Fri – Nov-21 Boston, MA Emerson Colonial Theatre
Sat – Nov-22 Providence, RI The VETS
Mon – Nov-24 New York, NY Beacon Theatre
Wed – Nov-26 Detroit, MI Fisher Theatre
Fri – Nov-28 Chicago, IL Broadway in Chicago’s Oriental Theatre
Sat – Nov-29 St Louis, MO Peabody Opera House
Mon – Dec-01 Denver, CO Temple Hoyne Buell Theatre 
Wed – Dec-03 Phoenix, AZ Orpheum Theatre
Thu – Dec-04 Los Angeles, CA Saban Theatre
Fri – Dec-05 San Francisco, CA SHN Curran Theatre
Fri – Dec-06 San Francisco, CA SHN Curran Theatre


Burke displays a compelling charisma as the troubled paterfamilias.
Mr. Burke has a rich, husky baritone and capably transmits Joe’s stolid determination to keep history from repeating itself.
Charles Isherwood, The New York Times

Saw Billy in Ghost Brothers of Darkland County tonight and wanted to share with everyone. It was fantastic and if anyone has a chance to see it – you must. The entire cast was outstanding. This show was done in more of an old radio show style with the entire cast staying on stage the whole 2-1/2 hours. When they did not have a scene they were sitting in the background so I got to watch Billy the entire time. No set changes, no costume changes. Billy’s acting was flawless and it was amazing to watch him perform live and remain in character the entire time. He had two solo songs and the first one “How Many Days” was absolutely amazing. I just kept thinking WOW. We were close to the speakers and his voice just went through you. The entire audience was hushed and still and applauded when he was through the song. (I was so glad for him). At the end of act one the entire cast sang “Tear Down This Cabin” an upbeat tune and scene that reminded me of a southern revival. Seeing Billy do this song (and dance a little) with the cast was fantastic. In act two Billy had another solo song and was just as good, and he and the child actor sang a few lines of the final song together in harmony. I never dreamed I’d get to see Billy sing live and this was just a wonderful opportunity! Thank you for doing this show bb. Billy is pure talent and definitely underrated and under noticed. We fans need to keep after him to do that 2nd CD. He’s way too good not to. The end of the show was a surprise that I did not expect. I won’t say more so I don’t spoil it for those who have not seen it. Billy’s character, like Miles, is atoning for past secrets and finds that redemption so that was kind of nice to see since we didn’t get to see that in Revolution.
– Denise Dee Metzger / Baltimore


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St. Louis, MO | 11/29/2014
New York City, NY | 11/24/2014
Durham, NC | 11/14/2014
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