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BWW Interview: Jeb Brown Talks World Premiere of Duncan Sheik & Kyle Jarrow's WHISPER HOUSE

The cast of Whisper House includes Samantha Mathis, Alex Boniello, Wyatt Cirbus, Molly Hager, and James Yaegashi.

BWW Interview: Jeb Brown Talks World Premiere of Duncan Sheik & Kyle Jarrow's WHISPER HOUSE

59E59 Theaters and The Civilians are presenting the world premiere of Whisper House, featuring music and lyrics by Duncan Sheik, and book and lyrics by Kyle Jarrow. A brand-new, completely original musical, Whisper House is reopening 59E59 Theaters' Theater A, marking their return to in-person, live performances.

The show began previews on January 11, 2022, and is set to open on January 20 for a limited run through February 6, 2022.

Duncan Sheik and Kyle Jarrow's Whisper House is a thrilling musical ghost story, combining a gorgeous original score with a haunting story about fear of the other and the ways we can transcend it. Whisper House features conception with Keith Powell ("30 Rock"), direction by Steve Cosson (Anne Washburn's Mr. Burns, a post-electric play) and choreography by Billy Bustamante (The King and I).

The cast of Whisper House includes Samantha Mathis (Billions) as Lily, Alex Boniello (Spring Awakening) as Male Ghost, Jeb Brown (Beautiful) as The Sheriff, Wyatt Cirbus (Finding Neverland National Tour) as Christopher, Molly Hager (Waitress) as Female Ghost and James Yaegashi (Runaways) as Yasuhiro.

Tickets to Whisper House begin at $25 and are on sale now at 59e59.org/shows/show-detail/whisper-house-2022.

BroadwayWorld spoke with Jeb Brown about returning to live performances, the process of bringing an original musical to the stage, and much more!


WHISPER HOUSE is reopening 59E59's Theater A, and is marking their return to in-person performances. How does it feel to be returning to the stage?

Oh my goodness, it's a good feeling. Returning to the stage, collaborating with all these great artists on this piece has been a thrill. We have been in masks, we took them off to begin some run-throughs, and it was kind of shocking, all this stuff was happening with our faces, we'd forgotten that we had been hired for our faces. But it will be really wonderful to put this thing in front of an audience finally. We were working on it two years ago when the shutdown came, so we all kind of learned the ropes of what that was as it came at us together. And then we reassembled two years later, the very same individuals with a couple of exceptions, and stared at one another and thought, "My god, what we've been through, and all that we've learned, and now we own a wardrobe full of masks and we know how to use them." And so, we put the show back together.

There's a real determination in the group to get this thing across the finish line and in front of an audience. Because we were literally shut down on the afternoon of our first preview. We were hours from our first audience. So, to do it two years later is incredibly thrilling for those reasons, and also because we love the piece.

So tell me what the process has been like for you and for everybody jumping back in and getting back together with the cast?

I think we all have acknowledged that this has been really tough on the theatre industry, and so there's all of that. But, the other side of that, there is also, in our case, a gestation process that's happened with the piece itself. We've been living with it for two years now. Usually you rehearse an Off-Broadway show - a new story, it's brand new book musical - for five weeks, six weeks, and then you're up. And in this case, we rehearsed it for five, six weeks, and then we took two years to think about it and let it steep! And now, to bring it back, I think we're discovering that, even though we weren't in the rehearsal room for two years, there is two years worth of living in these characters. Because it was the last thing we were doing, and now it's the first thing we're doing back.

There have also been changes made to the piece, because the writers have had time to stare at it and realize there are some tweaks and tightening here and there. And the world has changed in two years! And so, the themes that were already resonant in the piece are ever so much more so. And that's amazing. I think that's true of a lot of stories we'll now tell two years later. But, this in particular, there is a reckoning with race in there, there is a lot of stuff that I think is hotter and more trenchant now than it was two years ago. So, that's kind of amazing to discover that there's so much more to talk about, that there's so many more depths to go to together.

As you mentioned, this is a brand-new musical, which is a different process than working with something that already exists in some form or another. So, how has that felt going through the process of bringing a new musical to life?

Well, that's always extra special. This, again, is not just a new musical, but it's an original story, it's not based on anything. So Kyle Jarrow, who's a great writer of books and lyrics, has done a beautiful job with Duncan [Sheik] to create this atmospheric world that is based in reality. It's a little slice of American history. The coast of Maine at the outset of America's involvement in World War II. So, there's this sense of a small community trying to figure out how to contend with the fact that they're now involved in this big conflict. It's always an honor to be bringing a character to the stage that nobody has ever seen before. And this is a small company, six actors, six roles, and they're all very distinctive, they're not people we've seen a million times on stage. They're not stock. So, it's just luscious.

It's what we love to do, and we just keep turning to one another behind our masks and saying, "Aren't we lucky to be back here?" You take two years away, and then you get back in the room, and things changed in all of our lives, everywhere. I think there's a little part of you that says, "How is this going to feel two years later?" and I think we're all just quite delighted and relieved that we still love to do this as much as we do. That it is what we've hung our lives on, and it's nice to come back to that and discover that it's still there. That it's still wonderful, that it still matters so much.

Can you tell me about the character that you play?

I play Charles, who's the sheriff in a small town on the coast of Maine in 1942. He's a guy who hasn't seen a lot of action, who had a relatively quiet life, but suddenly there's a lot more on his plate because, as was the case, these coastal towns of Maine, and a lot of the east coast, were suddenly the target of some German U-Boats that were coming up near the shore and torpedoing cargo ships that were sitting there. Suddenly these small communities were being asked to participate with the Navy in trying to contend with and protect themselves from these attacks on American shores. It was unheard of. So, Charles is the guy who is in town, shouldering some of the new directives that are coming from the government, and he's trying to spread the word, and trying to secure the town, and facing various levels of cooperation. That's how he functions in the play. He's our American representative onstage. An ordinary American contending with extraordinary times. I think we can all relate to that.

We certainly can. On that note, and as you mentioned previously, the show explores themes that we are dealing with and have been dealing with for a long time, that are especially prevalent now. How do you hope audiences react and relate to Whisper House?

I think there are many things in this story... it's a fun show, because ghost stories are fun, but it's also full of hauntingly gorgeous tunes. It's a little slice of American history, Americans at the outset of our involvement in the war. But the story's major theme might be the importance of human connection. And in that way I do think it offers a recipe for surviving challenging times. It would be nice to think that the audiences might receive it that way. I think there's something ultimately reassuring about it.


Photo credit: Richard Termine



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