Bright Star certainly lives up to it’s name. The Steve Martin and Edie Brickell musical shines bright despite a predictable second-act plot twist and highly improbable ending. Martin, a seasoned librettist still manages to write a story more powerful than a speeding locomotive, but it’s the down-home score, he co-wrote with Brickell that radiates with brilliance.
Set in 1946, aspiring writer Billy Cane (A.J. Shively) has just returned home from the war. After a quick visit with his father (David Atkinson), he heads to Asheville in pursuit of his literary dreams. Before long, his path crosses that of Alice Murphy (Carmen Cusack), a spitfire magazine editor that instantly takes a liking to him.
But Alice has her own story to tell. And to understand the present, we must travel back to 1922, where Alice first fell in love with teenage beau, Jimmy Ray Dobbs (Patrick Cummings) and the lengths their parents, Daddy Murphy (Stephen Lee Anderson), Mama Murphy (Allison Briner-Dardenne) and Mayor Josiah Dobbs (Jeff Austin) went through to keep them apart.
Cusack, who originated the role of Alice Murphy at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego and later Broadway returns for the Los Angeles sit-down. Her onstage metamorphosis not only includes her physical appearance, but also vocal styling to alter the physical sound of each number – a true testament to her talent!
Besides Cusack’s lovely alto, the compilation of emotionally-charged ballads, inspirational hymns and traditional honky-tonk inspired by Brickell and Martin’s 2013 Grammy-winning bluegrass album “Love Has Come For You” are exquisite, sweet-sounding and quite simply the best, wholehearted songs composed in recent years.
Alice and Billy’s story line eventually connect, leaving some audience members in disbelief. More importantly at the core is a powerful message about human rights, a global issue many of us still face today.
The talented cast also includes Maddie Shea Baldwin as Margo, the bookstore clerk with eyes on Billy and Jeff Blumenkrantz and Kaitlyn Davidson as Daryl and Lucy, the show’s comic relief duo and the reason I’m hankering for a Gin Fizz.
Another successful component behind Bright Star is director Walter Bobbie and his ability to transition the narrative between the 1920’s and 1940’s without any befuddlement. Likewise, musical director Rob Berman managed to round-up a praiseworthy band to play the banjo, mandolin, violin, bass, piano and accordion on Eugene Lee’s A-frame set design.
Take a nostalgic journey into the past, where joy and sorrow meet the sounds of bluegrass and you will find yourself aglow in the world of Bright Star.
Ticket Prices: $30 – $130 (Ticket prices are subject to change.)
Tickets are available online at https://www.centertheatregroup.org, by calling the Box Office at (213) 628-2772 or in person at 135 N Grand Ave in Los Angeles, CA 90012