''Cumberland Blues'' debuts -- The new musical based around Grateful Dead songs opens June 6

Is that the scent of patchouli oil wafting up the Great White Way? Maybe not yet, but on June 6, Cumberland Blues, a new musical written around the songs recorded by the Grateful Dead, will premiere in San Jose, Calif., before a 16-week run in San Francisco. If there’s good karma, producers are hoping to then take the show to New York. But don’t expect a Tommy-like rock opera or a Beatlemania-style revue. Instead, playwright Michael Norman Mann built a narrative — about a dying mine owner and his desire to see his three estranged sons — around songs recorded by the Dead, mostly from the Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty albums. ”This is in the Cole Porter-George Gershwin mode,” says Mann. ”Songs that could be performed in concert or on the stage.” While Blues has the blessing of the Dead (lyricist Robert Hunter gave his permission to use the tunes), the band is witholding comment until they see it. That hasn’t stopped Mann from thinking of other rock music that may be stage-ready. Says Mann: ”Bring on the Beatles.”