"If you knew my story, you'd have a good story to tell."
Based off of a true story, "Bright Star"—directed by Tony Award winner Walter Bobbie and choreographed by Josh Rhodes—reveals a painful tale from the past and its eventual collision with the present. A triumph of bluegrass music, this show utilizes the storytelling nature of Edie Brickell and Steve Martin's bluegrass and folk music to excite and delight, along with a heartfelt, yet witty, book by Martin. Yep, that Steve Martin. This comedic genius— who has entertained us for decades— has won three Grammys for his bluegrass music, and has now turned that talent towards the Broadway stage.
When Billy Cane (A.J. Shively) returns home from the war, he decides to seriously pursue a career in writing. Encouraged by the lovely Margo Crawford (Maddie Shea Baldwin), Billy packs up for Asheville in hopes of being published in the Asheville Southern Reader. Once there, he meets the moody Daryl Ames (Jeff Blumenkrantz), the flirtatious Lucy Grant (Kaitlyn Davidson), and the no-nonsense editor of the Asheville Southern Journal, Miss Murphy (Carmen Cusack). However, Miss Murphy wasn't always so serious. A trip down memory lane takes us back to 22 years earlier when she was known as the rambunctious Alice, a girl too smart for her small town. Her love for the sweet son of the town mayor, Jimmy Ray (Patrick Cummings), lands her in some muddy water, and the repercussions of that night haunt her for years, until an unexpected realization in a small town heals her heart.
It's easy to see—or should I say, hear—how Cusack garnered her Tony nomination back in 2016. She captures the telltale croon of a folk song, yet doesn't lose any of her power. Her transition from the older Ms. Murphy, to the young and churlish Alice Murphy is seamless and believable. You want to run barefoot in the grass right beside her. She is excellently complimented by Cummings, and their song "Whoa, Mama," had me grinning from ear to ear at its delightful playfulness. I was far more captivated by their love story than by Billy and Margo's, which— although cute—doesn't add anything to the overall story. A standout in the show is Ames, who keeps the audience roaring as the cynical Daryl. His dry wit and sassy remarks liven up every scene he is in.
Colorful costumes (Jane Greenwood) help differentiate between the time periods, and a simple, rustic set (Eugene Lee) sets the scene, and transitions easily between a rural cabin, a busy city bar, and other locations. A bare-bones cabin houses the incredible onstage band, and clever lighting (Japhy Weideman) helps to accomplish effects such as slow-motion and time rewinds.
Follow a "Bright Star" to the Ahmanson Theatre for this incredible show.
"Bright Star" is playing at Ahmanson Theatre until November 19th. Tickets for "Bright Star" are available by calling (213) 972-4400, online at www.CenterTheatreGroup.org or at the Center Theatre Group Box Office located at the Ahmanson Theatre. Tickets range from $30 – $130.