BWW Review: BRIGHT STAR Opens at the Buddy Rogers Family Playhouse
A BRIGHT STAR shines, shines, shines in the Olathe Civic Theatre Associations (OCTA) current production of BRIGHT STAR now playing at the Buddy Rogers Family Playhouse in Olathe. Directed by Julie Ewing, with music direction by Ashley Jones, and choreography by Carolyn Braverman this phenomenal production is anything but community theater. Who would ever think community theater could be so good? BRIGHT STR is of a quality that any professional theater would be delighted to attain.
Set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina the musical BRIGHT STAR was inspired by the Grammy-winning folk story "Iron Mountain Baby" and bluegrass album "Love Has Come for You". With the book by Steve Martin (yes, he is the internationally recognized comedian), music by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, and lyrics by Edie Brickell this musical presents a tale of youth, love, change, forgiveness, and eternal optimism.
After the theatre doors open the audience is entertained by the Iron Mountain Pickers, who are members of the incredible band providing the music for the show. Humor, exceptional songs, splendidly choreographed dance routines, and intense emotion brings this play to life and drags the audience through a full range of emotion. One moment the audience is laughing and the next the audience is fighting back tears. I heard several women including my wife cry during a couple of scenes. Okay go ahead and call me a girl, tears were coming from my eyes also.
Set after World War II, BRIGHT STAR is the tale of Billy Cane a would-be writer who returns from the war with the intentions of becoming a published author. He travels to Ashville where he meets Alice Murphy, who runs a southern magazine and convinces her to take a look at his writing. Through flashbacks, we learn of young love between Alice and Jimmy Ray Dobbs in the 1920s. I wondered how flashbacks would be staged and was delighted at how fabulously it was accomplished. Without giving away the plot let me say I was pleasantly stunned at the ending.
BRIGHT STAR could easily describe the incredible talent put together by OCTA for this production. Ashton Botts is remarkable as Alice. She has a superb voice that made me wish there was a third act just so I could hear more of her vocals. This actor has it all, incredible voice, wonderful dancing, and outstanding acting when she cries the audience feels her pain. Producers of local professional theatre should give her a listen; indeed, Kansas City needs to see more of her.
Austin Stang is remarkable as Alice's young love Jimmy Ray. This is another voice I look forward to hearing again. The interaction between him and Alice can bring goosebumps up and down your arms. Nathan Bills stars as Billy Cane marvelously blending his incredible voice with Alice, Jimmy Ray, and the rest of the cast.
BRIGHT STAR continues at the Olathe Community Theatre through September 15. Don't miss your chance to see this marvelous musical production. To purchase tickets online go to www.olathetheatre.org.
Photos courtesy of Shelly Stewart Banks