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Bright Star
a Musical
by Book by Steven Martin; songs and story by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell

COMPANY : Elm Street Cultural Arts Village [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Elm Street Cultural Arts Village [WEBSITE]
ID# 5487

SHOWING : April 12, 2019 - April 28, 2019



Inspired by a real event and featuring the Grammy-nominated score by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, Broadway’s "Bright Star" tells a sweeping tale of love and redemption set against the rich backdrop of the American South in the 1920s and ’40s. When literary editor Alice Murphy meets a young soldier just home from World War II, he awakens her longing for the child she once lost. Haunted by their unique connection, Alice sets out on a journey to understand her past – and what she finds has the power to transform both of their lives. Propelled by an ensemble of onstage musicians and dancers, the story unfolds as a rich tapestry of deep emotion, beautiful melodies and powerfully moving performances. An uplifting theatrical journey that holds you tight in its grasp, "Bright Star" is as refreshingly genuine as it is daringly hopeful.

Director Annie Cook
Billy Cane Jason Fussell
Daryl Brian Gamel
Daddy Murphy Byron Harvey
Alice Murphy Kate Johnson
Daddy Cane Joshua Lee Robinson
Major Dobbs Joel Rose
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Shining Bright
by playgoer
Monday, May 20, 2019
The Steve Martin/Edie Brickell musical "Bright Star" is being given a handsome production at the Elm Street Cultural Arts Village in Woodstock. In Brad Leak’s scenic design, the band is seated up center, against a backdrop painted (but only visibly on the sides) with a mountain view vista. Wood framing in vaguely architectural form is present upstage and on either side of the stage. Set pieces are rolled in and out as needed, and brown-painted wooden cubes are used for general seating. There are also a couple of desks and an actual chair to set interior scenes. Scene transitions are accomplished smoothly.

Costumes, designed by Cindy Flanders, don’t do a particularly good job in distinguishing the 1920’s scenes from the 1940’s scenes, but there are a couple of nifty quick-change outfits, and the script does a good job of letting us know what timeframe we’re in. Brian Gamel’s lighting design, while seeming a bit dim in the initial moments of the show, soon does a fine job of highlighting the action. Sound design is also good, with a nice balance of band and vocals, although not all microphone levels seem to be the same.

The band consists of four permanent members (Annie Cook on piano and Alex Lipsky on fiddle, with Mason Stokes principally on cello and Barry Arnell on banjo and other stringed instruments), with four cast members joining in at times (Jillian Seibert on drums, McKenzie McCart on guitar, Matthew Weeks on bass, and Joshua Robinson on mandolin). The playing is superb and the Martin/Brickell bluegrass score is engaging. There’s even some choreography by Lauren Rosenweitz (Rosenschweig?) that adds percussion sounds, most notably in a stunning set-up sequence of the boxes to resemble seats in a train.

Of course, an excellent orchestra needs to be accompanied by accomplished singing to have its greatest impact. Elm Street’s production has been blessed with a great selection of voices to sing the score. Female lead Kate Jackson is in marvelous voice as Alice Murphy, and she and male lead Stephen Spainhour-Roth as Jimmy Ray Dobbs create indelible performances, both in terms of singing and of acting. Lesser roles are also filled with good singers, with a couple seemingly being more comfortable singing than acting. There are some fine dancers too, principally Ms. Seibert and Carolyn Oursler (who is also quite good as secondary lead Margo), and Mr. Weeks has some nice dance moves too. It’s a talented cast.

Director Annie Cook has put together a terrific production of a story with North Carolina roots. Dramatic performances come from Byron Harvey and Joel Rose, as the fathers of the two leads, and a more comical, but equally effective performance comes from Joshua Robinson as the father of the male secondary lead (played by Jason Fussell). McKenzie McCart also adds some nice comic notes. There’s even some technological wizardry in play, as sleight of hand propels a prop into a digital image on a projection screen at the edge of the stage.

The staging is fluid and pacing is excellent, although the running time of 2.5 hours seems a tad long, with some songs having less of an impact than the book scenes. Still, the sentimental ending works on all levels. "Bright Star" is one of those recent Broadway shows that hasn’t come through Atlanta on tour, so it’s a treat to be able to see it in Woodstock in a production that is far above the standard of most local community theatres. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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