BRIGHT STAR earns a standing ovation at the Curran Theatre.
BRIGHT STAR: Musical. Book by Steve Martin. Music by Edie Brickell and Steve Martin. Directed by Walter Bobbie. Curran, 445 Geary St., San Francisco. 415-358-1220 or www.sfcurran.com.
November 28 through Sunday, December 17, 2017.
BRIGHT STAR earns a standing ovation at the Curran Theatre. Rating:
The musical “Bright Star” was based on a true event and it is perfect vehicle for Blue Grass music that thrives on melodrama and the heartbreaks of love never running true. The evening is flooded with Blue Grass music with an onstage band and actors plaintively singing the lyrics starting with the opening number “If You Knew My Story.” It is sung by Carmen Cusak who earned a Tony nomination playing the lead role of Alice Murphy on Broadway. The entire show also earned a Tony nomination for Best Musical but lost out to Hamilton. That’s not too shabby.
The play begins in 1945-46 and moves back and forth 22 years earlier in North Carolina. Billy, an aspiring young writer has returned home from World War II and learns his mother has died. He is an aspiring young writer who wants to join the ranks of the Southern school of writers and plans to follow his own “Bright Star.” He travels to the office of the Asheville Southern Journal where older Alice is the tough editor. A tentative bond develops between them. The flashbacks fill in the past including the early love of Alice and Jimmy Ray that leads to heart wrenching consequences memorialized in classic Blues music and lyrics. It is an emotional rollercoaster.
The improbable story is given a superb staging that includes a movable wooden cabin housing the onstage band and is deftly moved to become part of the following scenes. While moving the cabin and other props the ensemble displays its choreographic skills while adding solid background choral arrangements for the plaintive words that carry the storyline forward and define character. A clever device of having a toy train move across the stage framework indicating travel adds lightness to relieve the building tension.
Cusack’s superb singing and acting is applified when she shifts gears from young to older Alice. Her cast members seem to have been born to sing the Blues and have individual time to share center stage. Secondary characters are important to story and all have admirable traits/voices to give solidity to the suspenseful story.
A highlight of the two hour and twenty minute evening with intermission is the entr’acte with the cabin pushed to the stage apron and the band with banjos, guitars, accordion, drums, viola/violin, Cello/bass and piano giving a concert as the audience claps rhythmically.
Yes, the ending is a tear-jerker with many tears in the audience but what a great evening and should not be missed.
CAST: Carmen Cusack, Alice Murphy; Stephen Lee Anderson, Daddy Murphy; David Atkinson, Daddy Cane; Jeff Austin, Mayor Josiah Dodds; Maddie Shea Baldwin, Margo Crawford; Jeff Blumenkrantz, Daryl Ames; Allison Briner-Dardenne, Mama Murphy; Patrick Cummings, Jimmy Ray Dobbs; Kaitlyn Davidson, Lucy Grant; A.J. Shively, Billy Cane; Audrey Cardwell, Edna; Max Chernin, Max; Robin De Lano, Count Clerk; David Kirk Grant, Dr. Norquest; Kevin McMahon, Stanford Adams; Alessa Neeck, Florence.
ARTISTIC TEAM: Walter Bobbie, Director; Josh Rhodes, Choreographer; Eugene Lee, Scenic Design; Jane Greenwood Costumes; Japhy Weideman, Lighting; Nevin Steinberg, Sound; P. Jason Yarcho, Music Direction; Anjee Nero, Stage Manager.
Kedar K. Adour, MD
Courtesy of www.theatreworldim2.com.