On Stage: The Haunted Hillbilly

The Haunted Hillbilly
Montréal’s Centaur Theatre
May 8 – June 3, 2012

The award-winning musical based on
the novel by Derek McCormack.
Produced by  Sidemart.

I saw it 3 times last summer in Toronto at Theatre Passe Muraille!

Featuring all-original music by Matthew Barber, this season’s production launches the soundtrack on both vinyl and CD. The album includes twelve songs from the play and has guest appearances by Doug Paisley, Justin Rutledge, Oh Susanna, Julie Fader and of course, Matthew Barber (and others!). The album will be exclusively available at the theatre during the run of the show and will have a wider release in June.

The hatch-show style poster for the original theatrical production & Derek McCormack’s book

Matthew asked me to design the cover for him — such an honour!

I wanted to keep the same character I used on the original book cover and poster – the skeleton in a cowboy hat, playing guitar. I found this old photo at a flea market and altered the person’s face to resemble a skull.

Found photo and collage

This doesn’t have the impact I was looking for. Dropping the photo and
updating the illustration I came up with something more effective:

Introducing characters from the story: the lonesome cowboy, and the vampire bat

Something closer to the original poster could work. I used a
typeface that is easier to read at smaller sizes, but the type and the
cowboy are competing for attention — more revisions!

Thinking of bats, some snapshots I took at the South
End Cemetery in East Hampton came to mind:

Nathan Baker, who died by the fall of a tree, South End Cemetery, East Hampton

I’ve always liked those little angels on tombstones. They remind me of bats.
Changing one angel wing to a bat wing and adding cowboy hats,
I came up with this new design:

One of 26 variations – my second favourite, with a leather and denim texture

I wanted to keep the new cowboy so used him elsewhere:

The lonesome cowboy appears in the liner notes

I really liked the leather and denim colours on the design, but we
decided something warmer and more colourful would
be better. It’s more musical, more sideshow, more carnival.

The final design:

Matthew Barber's new 12-inch vinyl

In Montréal? Order tickets for the play here.
Matthew Barber’s webpage.
Derek McCormack’s reading list


About Ian Phillips Illustration

I am an illustrator and book designer. View all posts by Ian Phillips Illustration

8 responses to “On Stage: The Haunted Hillbilly

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