BWW REVIEW: BRIGHT STAR Flickers at Hanover Theatre in Worcester

BWW REVIEW: BRIGHT STAR Flickers at Hanover Theatre in Worcester

Music, book and story by Steve Martin; music, lyrics and story by Edie Brickell; directed by Walter Bobbie; choreography by Josh Rhodes; scenic design, Eugene Lee; costume design, Jane Greenwood; lighting design, Japhy Weidman; sound design, Nevin Steinberg; hair and wig design, Tom Watson; orchestrations, August Eriksmoen; music direction, P. Jason Yarcho; production stage manager, Shawn Pennington

Cast in order of appearance:

Alice Murphy, Audrey Cardwell; Billy Cane, Henry Gottfried; Daddy Cane, David Atkinson; Margo Crawford, Liana Hunt; Max, Hayden Clifton; Florence, Alessa Neeck; Edna, Mary Page Nance; Daryl Ames, Jeff Blumenkrantz; Lucy Grant, Kaitlyn Davidson; Jimmy Ray Dobbs, Patrick Cummings; Daddy Murphy, John Leslie Wolfe; Mama Murphy, Allison Briner-Dardenne; Mayor Josiah Dobbs, Jeff Austin; Stanford Adams, Kevin McMahon; Dr. Norquist, David Kirk Grant; County Clerk, Robin DeLano; Additional Ensemble, Devin Archer, Michael Starr

Performances and Tickets:

April 17-22, Duke Energy Center, Raleigh, NC; April 26-29, Shubert Theatre, New Haven, CT; June 12-24, Winspear Opera House, Dallax, TX; Jun 26-July 1, Belk Theater at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, Charlotte, NC; for tickets and information, visit

BWW REVIEW: BRIGHT STAR Flickers at Hanover Theatre in WorcesterIn a brief engagement at the Hanover Theatre in Worcester, Mass. (which ended this Sunday), the national tour of Steve Martin and Edie Brickell's southern musical BRIGHT STAR flickers between down-home country charm and maudlin storytelling. Strong performances and a kickin' on-stage bluegrass band, though, manage to knock off the tarnish of this tepid tale of hope and redemption to deliver an uplifting message in the end.

Set in both the Blue Ridge Mountains during the 1920s and the city of Asheville, North Carolina, shortly after WWII, BRIGHT STAR follows the star-crossed paths of Alice Murphy (Audrey Cardwell), once a carefree country girl turned somber magazine editor, and Billy Cane (Henry Gottfried), a young writer home from the war who aspires to have his work published in the Asheville Southern Journal. As soon as Alice and Billy meet, their mutual love for great southern literature sparks a connection that quickly transforms them into mentor and mentee. While encouraging Billy to write the stories of the people he knows, Alice begins to remember her own exuberant youth - and the painful losses of love and dreams that have left her empty and alone.

BRIGHT STAR sometimes moves jarringly between its two worlds. A melodramatic dirge illuminating Alice's tragic past can be followed immediately by a foot-stomping hoedown when exuberant young love blooms. This causes sentiments to veer instantaneously from mawkish to merry, rising and falling on relationships that are either hateful or romantic.

Henry Gottfried as Billy and Liana Hunt as his girlfriend Margo traverse BRIGHT STAR's murky landscape the best, bringing fresh-faced innocence and humor to their performances. When they are together, they are captivating. But their story is secondary to Alice's, so their optimism brings only temporary relief from the gloom that is ever present in the shadows.

As Alice, Audrey Cardwell hides her smothered passions a little too deeply, making her redemptive transformation at the end feel forced and unnatural. She is a fine singer and handles the country flourishes and gospel riffs in Martin and Brickell's score with ease, but her belting lacks the force needed to send shivers down one's spine. She seems small onstage when she should be commanding. She and Patrick Cummings, who plays her long lost love Jimmy Ray Dobbs, lack the sexual chemistry that Gottfried and Hunt have in spades.

BWW REVIEW: BRIGHT STAR Flickers at Hanover Theatre in WorcesterSupporting cast members Jeff Blumenkrantz and Kaitlyn Davidson as Alice's editorial assistants Daryl Ames and Lucy Grant add welcomed spice and comic relief to the proceedings, while Jeff Austin as Mayor Josiah Dobbs and David Kirk Grant as Dr. Norquist bring the requisite dastardliness to their villainy. David Atkinson, John Leslie Wolfe, and Allison Briner-Dardenne make sympathetic parents, albeit from different generations. A lively ensemble serves double duty, singing and dancing like a Greek chorus while moving fluid sets back and forth between time periods.

The 10-piece bluegrass band under the direction of P. Jason Yarcho sizzles from its onstage perch inside an open-slatted high-beamed barn. Strings bring an emotional depth to the music while the banjo, auto harp, bass and mandolin enrich the guitar lines with an authentic southern sound.

While BRIGHT STAR feels contrived at times, its story (based on real-life events) twists and turns toward a satisfying resolution. When one never gives up hope, even the least likely happiness can be found.

PHOTOS courtesy of Hanover Theatre: Henry Gottfried and the company of BRIGHT STAR; Audrey Cardwell and the company of Bright Star; the BRIGHT STAR orchestra

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From This Author Jan Nargi

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