BWW Review: BRIGHT STAR a Breathtaking Production Presented by The Baldwinsville Theatre Guild

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BWW Review: BRIGHT STAR a Breathtaking Production Presented by The Baldwinsville Theatre Guild
L-R Gary Carpentier and Ceara Windhausen in the Baldwinsville Theatre Guild production of Bright Star. Photo by Lisa Balles.

The Baldwinsville Theatre Guild has brought a truly breathtaking production of Steve Martin and Edie Brickell's Bright Star to their stage under the superb direction of Colin Keating. Steve Martin and Edie Brickell's beautifully crafted bluegrass musical is breathtakingly brought to life by the stellar cast. This local community theatre production could give some professional theaters a run for their money thanks to Director Keating's spot-on casting, his detailed direction, and the unbelievable talents of local community theater performers that are often seen throughout Central New York.

The musical itself earned five Tony Award nominations. With Steve Martin's name attached many not knowing the story may just assume it is a comedy. However, the book is emotional, raw, and breathtakingly beautiful as it tells a story of love, hope, and redemption.

It is set in the American South in the 1920s and 1940s where Alice Murphy's story is told. A stern and respected literary editor named Alice Murphy (Ceara Windhausen) meets a young soldier and an aspiring writer just home from World War II named Billy Cane (Kilian Crowley). Billy has just reunited with his father (Andy Butchko) and his childhood friend Margo (Hali Greenhouse). Margo fully supports Billy's dream of being a writer and focusing on his writing so she puts her hopes and dreams aside of her future with Billy so his dreams can come true. Alice originally refuses Billy's plea to publish his stories but she recognizes something promising in the young man and encourages him to continue submitting his work. Alice does catch Billy in a lie and this optimistic and bold young man seems to remind Alice of her former self. Alice then flashes back to her sixteen-year-old self in the 1920s in the musical number "Way back in the Day" as she flirts with a young man named Jimmy Ray Dobbs (Gary Carpentier) in her hometown in North Carolina. That time was a series of significant and life changing events for Alice and her past with Jimmy shaped her into the adult literary editor she is today. This musical at first seems to be centered on two main characters but, it is in fact Alice's story of her past, present, and future all coming together.

Taking on the leading role of Alice Murphy is local favorite and always captivating Ceara Windhausen. This role was made for Windhausen or Windhausen was made for this role either way her performance is not to be missed. Windhausen has proven herself a triple threat in many performances. She has the powerful vocals, dancing skills, and superb acting. Her vocals always steal the spotlight but this time around it was her gut-wrenching acting that brought the house down. Her big and powerful voice opens the show with "If You Knew My Story" leaving the audience on the edge of their seat. The power, passion, and pure confidence she delivers in each musical number makes this performance truly breathtaking. It was "Please, Don't Take Him" that sends chills as Windhausen delivers one of the most passionate and raw performances I have seen. Windhausen in this role is without a doubt one of the best performances I have seen in local theater as well as professional theater. She has the talent and stage presence that is meant for the lights of Broadway.

Kilian Crowley delivers a heartwarming portrayal of Billy. He is instantly likable with his confidence, charm, and effortless chemistry with his fellow cast members. Crowley's winning expressions and captivating portrayal wows throughout the production. He lights up the stage with the musical number "Bright Star."

Gary Carpentier's Jimmy Ray vocals take center stage. He delivers a spunky and confident "Whoa, Mama" along with Ceara Windhausen. Windhausen and Carpentier show off their chemistry in "What Could Be Better." However, it is their duet "I Had a Vision" that sends chills and showcasing pure raw emotion and power of Carpentier and Windhausen's vocals.

Another local favorite often seen in leading roles throughout the Central New York Community Theater scene is the talented Hali Greenhouse. Her wide-eyed expressions, her charm, her confidence, and enchanting vocals once again wow the audience, this time in the role of Margo. She delivers a standout rendition of "Asheville." Greenhouse and Crowley deliver a lovely rendition of "Always Will."

Aaron Pierce as Mayor Josiah Dobbs captivates in this villainous role. His portrayal is chilling, mesmerizing, and a true standout. His "A Man's Gotta Do (Reprise)" literally takes your breath away. Hopefully audiences are treated to many more performances from Pierce, he is a true talent.

Other standouts include Christy Ashby as she delivers a memorable performance as Mama Murphy. Her vocals, emotion, and devotion to the role once again light up the stage at the Baldwinsville Theatre Guild. David Gilmore as Daddy Murphy with his impeccable line delivery, standout stage presence, and spot on chemistry is a highlight of the production. Andy Butchko as Daddy Cane delivers a delightful performance. Ryan Sparkes as Daryl charms with his comedic line delivery, entertaining facial expressions, and just purely memorable performance. Meara Mosny shows off her spot on line delivery in her role as Lucy.

The entire ensemble delivers winning performances throughout. They charm with Emmilly Budge's delightful choreography and Keatings spot on staging utilizing Rien Schlecht's simple yet very effective set design.

Director Keating conducts (piano, accordian) the delightful onstage orchestra as they bring the catchy and toe-tapping bluegrass musical numbers to life. Maggie Mercer on violin, Chris Green on keyboard 2, Nicholas MacLane on guitar and banjo, Brian McIlroy on bass, and Justin Ezzo on drums back the powerful cast as Steve Martin and Edie Brickell's charming, endearing, and powerful score take center stage.

The local community theater scene in Central New York often wows in numerous productions. However, this cast, this musical, this story is truly something special. The entire production is breathtaking. Do not miss this truly impressive production of Bright Star at the Baldwinsville Theatre Guild.

Running time: Two hours and twenty-five minutes with one fifteen-minute intermission.

Bright Star runs through February 8, 2020 at the Baldwinsville Theatre Guild located at 64 Oswego Street, Baldwinsville, New York. For tickets and information on this production and upcoming productions at the Baldwinsville Theatre Guild call the box office at 315.877.8465 or click here.

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From This Author Natasha Ashley