Courtesy Photo | John Clough                                 John Clough (Jim Croce) and Summer Koester (Ingrid Croce) will star as the folk-singing couple at the center of an upcoming original production.

Courtesy Photo | John Clough John Clough (Jim Croce) and Summer Koester (Ingrid Croce) will star as the folk-singing couple at the center of an upcoming original production.

Strummer Lovin’: New show inspired by real-life folk singers

It’s an original story with well-loved music

Jim Croce is radio royalty even if his name might not be immediately recognizable to many — he’s the singer-songwriter behind the immortal “Bad Bad Leroy Brown” and other hits. But that’s not why a Juneau man wrote a stage show about Croce.

John Clough said Croce’s life — specifically his relationship with his wife, Ingrid — is just as captivating as the classic music Croce made. That’s why he wrote “Photographs & Memories: The Lives and Music of Jim & Ingrid Croce,” which has a six-show run starting March 6 at Gold Town Theater.

“The personal story of their relationship was just something I could relate to,” Clough said. “Then, as an author, what I found is they had all of these songs that had been with me for decades, and I found some of those songs evoked feelings for me that related to the feelings they experienced during their very tumultuous 10 years together. The music is all theirs, but the writing is all mine.”

In addition to penning tunes that would ultimately earn him posthumous enshrinement in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Jim Croce led an eventful and tragically short life, which served as inspiration for “Photographs & Memories.” Clough emphasized that the show is not a 100% faithful biography.

[Getting set for “Here’s Looking at You, Casablanca”]

The real-life Croce served in the U.S. Army National Guard, according to biography.com, and toured Africa and the Middle East as a musician. He eked out a hardscrabble existence as a touring musician and released a gold record. All of that came before Jim Croce perished in a plane crash in 1973 at age 30. His album “I Got a Name” was released posthumously and spawned a pair of top 10 singles.

Clough, and a self-grown mustache, will play the acclaimed folk singer in the show, which Clough produced in association with Juneau Lyric Opera.

“John wins the commitment award,” joked Summer Koester, who will play Ingrid Croce in the show. “I’m excited for it because I feel like I’ve been preparing for this role for a year now.”

“Photographs & Memories” will also feature Rob Cohen — who helped teach Clough guitar for the show — as Maury Muehleisen along with Collette Costa, whom Clough said will voice nine minor characters.

Courtesy Photo | John Clough                                 John Clough (Jim Croce), Summer Koester (Ingrid Croce) and Rob Cohen (Maury Muehleisen) hold guitars. All three will play characters inspired by real-life performers in the upcoming “Photographs & Memories: The Lives and Music of Jim & Ingrid Croce.”

Courtesy Photo | John Clough John Clough (Jim Croce), Summer Koester (Ingrid Croce) and Rob Cohen (Maury Muehleisen) hold guitars. All three will play characters inspired by real-life performers in the upcoming “Photographs & Memories: The Lives and Music of Jim & Ingrid Croce.”

“Anyone who knows Collette will understand that she will be very entertaining in these nine very diverse roles — maybe the only woman in Juneau who could do all those parts,” Clough said.

While Jim Croce is the more famous of the couple, Clough said that when writing the show it became clear to him the story belonged to Ingrid Croce, who was with Jim throughout his travels, tribulations and eventual successes.

[These fashion statements have feelings]

She was also contacted for permission to put on the show.

“She initially said no because she is trying to market this as a jukebox musical to a serious Broadway production,” Clough said. “I personally feel the story is there.”

However, with some stipulations, including keeping the production in Juneau and not charging admission, the show received Ingrid Croce’s blessing, Clough said.

Juneau Lyric Opera will be offering free admission to the show.

“We’ll have a big tip jar, which is how the Croces survived forever,” he said.

Know & Go

What: “Photographs & Memories: The Lives and Music of Jim & Ingrid Croce”

When: March 6-8 and 13-15. Friday and Saturday shows are at 7 p.m. Sunday shows are at 6 p.m.

Where: Gold Town Theater, 171 Shattuck Way.

Admission: Free but suggested donations of $10 will be accepted. Seats must be reserved in advance and can be done online at jahc.org. The show features R-rated language.

• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at 907-523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt

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