BWW Review: BRIGHT STAR Brings Bluegrass and Romance to New Stage Theatre in Jackson
With the opening number of the musical "Bright Star", the lead actress promises the audience that there's a good story to tell, and it's one that's inspired by true events. Throughout the course of the performance, the cast of this regional production at New Stage Theatre in Jackson more than delivers on that promise. Presented by First Commercial Bank and Selby & Richard McRae Foundation, the show finishes out New Stage's 2018-19 season.
Featuring music, book, and story by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, "Bright Star" blends musical theatre and bluegrass music into a romantic tale taking place in the 1920s and the 1940s. The story that unfolds paints a picture of the values of the South during that time period, as well as proving that it truly is a small world, and the South is even smaller.
Taking on the role of leading lady Alice Murphy is Sari Koppel. Koppel has an extraordinary voice matched only by her acting talent. She transitions from a precocious but somewhat naive teen to a mature, successful, but jaded editor and back again with ease and portrays each side of her character with complete commitment. Jeremy Cooper strongly plays Alice's love interest, Jimmy Ray Dobbs, a young man born into a life of privilege with a father who tries to force his son to follow in his footsteps and ultimately changes the course of the young couple's lives forever. Cooper's expression of his character's grief is completely believable and heartbreaking once he discovers his father's actions. Ray McFarland plays Mayor Josiah Dobbs, Jimmy Ray's father, terrifyingly well and he makes the character despicable - the whole audience is horrified by his attitude and actions, which is exactly the goal. Billy Cane, portrayed by Tyler Bellmon, is an up-and-coming writer, trying his darndest to get his big break and have his work published in The Ashville Southern Journal, gets his chance when he leaves Hayes Creek and convinces Alice to give his writing a chance, but he leaves behind a young lady, Margo Crawford (played by Kathlyn Arcemont) with whom he has a connection that he doesn't even realize fully at the time. Each of these characters (bar Mayor Josiah) is led by their own bright star down a path of heartbreak and hope to reach their own well-deserved second chances.
"Bright Star" is a musical that bridges the age gap of its audiences, reminding the older generations of the way of life of that time period while holding younger audience members transfixed by the love stories unfolding, and the music, though not what you usually find in a musical, is immensely enjoyable and aids the audience members in their journey through this incredible tale.
New Stage's production of "Bright Star", while originally intended to run from May 28th until June 9th, has been extended due to popular demand to feature performances until June 16th. Show times and links to tickets can be found below, and don't put off buying tickets until the last minute - they're going fast, and you don't want to miss this show!