Hey, Kids, Let’s Put On a Show!

by J.D. Rhoades

Recently, the publishing news website Galleycat reported that multi-million-bestselling novelist Stephen King and legacy rocker John  Mellencamp had teamed up to write a musical. The show, titled Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, “is based on the real 1957 deaths of two brothers and a young girl. Mellencamp is in charge of the ‘roots and blues-tinged score.’ ” 

Well, you know, why not? I mean, if U2 can make a horrendously expensive and insanely hazardous Broadway show based on Spider-Man, who’s to say King and Mellencamp can’t make a major hit? They’ve even played together before:


(This is, apparently, the kind of cool shit you get to do when you’re Stephen King).

Admittedly, “the real 1957 deaths of two brothers and a young girl” does not sound like the kind of subject matter to make for toe-tappin’ musical theater, but whern you think about it, there’s a lot of dark stuff and killing in musicals. Look at Porgy and Bess. Look at West Side Story.  Hell, look at Lion King (so I don’t have to.)

Musicals are huge these days. A quick glance at last years offerings shows that there were musicals based on The Addams Family (with Nathan Lane as Gomez and Bebe Neuwirth as Mortica, because apparently there is a law on Broadway that Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth must be employed at all times);  Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown; and, (Lord give me strength) Love Story.  I guess if you’re trying to get that all important tourist dollar into  your theater on the Great White Way, you just can’t count on packin’ ’em in with Long Day’s Journey Into Night or The Cherry Orchard, unless you set them to music.

Which of course, raises the question: why shouldn’t we jump on this bandwagon? We’ve got some musicians in our midst, and I sing a little. How about So Close the Hand of Death–The Musical, featuring a show stopping rendition by Hugh Jackman of “The Great Pretender”? Or Zoe, we could always do Charlie-The Charlie Fox Musical (“kinda young, kinda wow”!)

The possibilities are endless. Maybe when Mellencamp and King get their show up and running, I can get Mellencamp to pen a couple of tunes for the musical version of  Lawyers, Guns and Money:

(The lights come up on the  southern town of Blainesville, a once prosperous  but now fading mill town. Enter ANDY COLE, stage right He sings to the tune of Melencamp’s “Small Town”):

ANDY: Well I was born in a small town
Practice law in this small town,
Think I got life knocked in this small town.
But there’s a lot of which I’m unaware….

(Enter local crime boss VOIT FAIRGREEN from stage left):

VOIT: I run the crime in this small town,
Make a lot of cash in this small town,
Know where the bodies are buried in this small town,
Cause I’m the one that put them there…

(Then the Chorus of TOWNSPEOPLE enters):

Well a barmaid’s been murdered and Andy’s been hired

To make sure Voit’s brother Danny gets away

 But there’s a lot of secrets hidden in this small town

And when they come out there’ll be hell to pay…


Okay, maybe I’d better leave this stuff to the pros.

So tell me–which of your books–or your favorite books– would you like to see done as a musical? Who’d star? And what woud the score and songs be like? Show tunes? Blues? Rock opera? Most importantly, Where would Nathan Lane or Bebe Neuwirth fit in?

C’mon, kids! Let’s put on a show!


17 thoughts on “Hey, Kids, Let’s Put On a Show!

  1. Reine

    JD, I love your humor! And I think Lawyers Guns and Money has great promise as a musical. I mean, what was that one about the serial killer barber? Right? C'mon JD. You have to use show tunes though. That's what makes the bucks after the show is closed. Remember Liza Minelli's first musical, Flora the Red Menace? They're still selling the CDs that started out as 33 1/3rds Seeeee? Get it in gear dear. Miss Mazeppa is ready to "… bump it with a trumpet!"

  2. PK the Bookeemonster

    My favorite series is by CJ Sansam. So I'm envisioning a rock musical of a humpbacked lawyer in Henry III's England. Think of the blue light solos!

  3. pari noskin taichert

    Oh, I am soooooo loving this, Dusty.

    I'd have my second book on stage just because I'd like to see a set designer create the life-size blasphemous paintings for which my murder victim was so famous.

    And if she's still singing, I'd love Bernadette Peters in ANYTHING! Maybe she could be my psychic Darnda Jones. Oh, oh, oh, or Pati Lupone. Oh, man. I'm going to have fun with this all day.

  4. Rae

    OK, so Nathan Lane is Jack Reacher, and Bebe Neuwirth is Frances Neagley (his occasionally-appearing love interest).

    Opening scene: Reacher is wandering down a deserted back road somewhere in the middle of America. Cue music: he starts warbling Willie Nelson's "On the Road Again". Suddenly, from out of nowhere, Frances roars up on a motorcycle, wearing appropriate hot biker chick gear. Cue music again: she hops off the bike and belts out "Come Rain or Come Shine" by Arlen and Mercer. They smile beatifically at each other, climb on the bike, and roar off down the road singing "I Got You Babe".

    I like it, it has a certain je ne sais quoi to it, don't you think?


    (By the way, saw Lane and Neuwirth in The Addams Family – they were fab)

  5. JT Ellison

    I really like the Shutter Island idea – I can just see them, at the top of the windswept cliffs – singing like the Capitol Steps – Marshal Daniels, Marshal Daniels – look out behind you!!!!!!!

  6. Maureen O'Danu

    Dusty, those musicals you listed were nothing compared to Sweeney Todd. How do you top cannibalism?

    That said, I'd like to see Spider Robinson's Star Dance (which is a cop out, because all Callahanians want to see it) as a musical.

    So… bizarre musical. Maybe the Kite Runner. That could be lyrical and beautiful and decidedly dark. Or the Handmaid's Tale. No, strike that. Not the Handmaid's Tale. That would be hard to watch.

  7. Dudley Forster

    My creative juices are currently a crusty, vicious fluid but here goes –

    THE HUNGER GAMES – I think this would make a great play – Done in the same style as Phantom.

    THE MILLENNIUM Trilogy (you either love or hate these books) this could be a Germanic opera. Instead of the Ring Cycle, you could have the Salander Cycle.

    Speaking of Opera – The Bobbie Faye books would be great as a Romantic Opera. There is the love triangle between Cam and Trevor. You could have Cam sing an aria about Bobbie’s destructive err … proclivities. This could work – be bigger than La bohème .

  8. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    You IS the pros, JD – you better get to your piano and pen yerself a hit!

  9. kitten

    ROTF…you, the late warren zevon, neil patrick harris, nathan fillion…you'd give king and johnny cougar a run for their money…

  10. KDJames

    I'm sorry, my brain stopped working when you mentioned Hugh Jackman. I'm pretty sure there's an Internet Rule — which you just flagrantly broke, counselor — that you're not allowed to say his name unless you also post a picture of him. Shirtless is good.

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