A new musical production wraps ‘O Brother’ songs in fresh gimmick

A fresh narrative, built around Vashonian lore, will adapt famous soundtrack to island story.

“Oh, Brother!” a new play by Jon Whalen, will feature a cast of island musicians performing songs from the famous soundtrack of “O Brother, Where Art Thou” (Courtesy Photo).

“Oh, Brother!” a new play by Jon Whalen, will feature a cast of island musicians performing songs from the famous soundtrack of “O Brother, Where Art Thou” (Courtesy Photo).

Depression-era bluegrass music meets community theater spoof in “Oh Brother!” — a new musical production set to bow for one performance only at 7 p.m. Sunday, June 16, at Vashon Center for the Arts.

The whimsical and island-centric new show is the creation of Jon Whalen, a local performer, director and musician who performs regularly on Vashon stages. Whalen, who has a background in sketch comedy and ensemble efforts, has recruited a stage full of other bright lights of the Vashon music scene to be in “Oh Brother!”

Cast members include Arlette Moody, Adrienne Selvy Mildon, Lyn McManus, Paul Colwell, John Browne, JD Hobson, Marita Eriksen, Chai Ste Marie, Steve Itterly, Margo Tantau, and the band Listen in The Kitchen.

The action of the play is set on present-day Vashon, at an audition for a fictional adaptation of the 2000 film, “O Brother, Where Art Thou.” Some of the performers — already well-known island characters — will appear as “slight embellishments of their true personalities,” to deliver renditions of songs from the famous soundtrack of the film, said Whalen.

That soundtrack, produced by T. Bone Burnett and released prior to the film’s release in 2000, includes traditional American songs and dirges including “O Death,” “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow,” “Keep on the Sunny Side” and other gems of Appalachia and the South. Featuring Ralph Stanley, Gillian Welch, Emmylou Harris and other giants of American music, the record was a sensation, winning a Grammy for album of the year in 2002.

Although Whalen’s play incorporates music from the film, “Oh Brother!” will not recreate any part of the story from the film about escaped convicts. Instead, a fresh narrative, built around Vashonian lore, will lead the audience through the music to a sweet finish, Whalen said.

Tickets to the show — $20 general, $18 senior, $16 member, $10 student — can be purchased in advance at vashoncenterforthearts.org.

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