Photo Flash: OCTA Opens 2019-2020 Season With BRIGHT STAR
OCTA begins their 2019-2020 with the musical Bright Star, directed by Julie Ewing with musical direction by Ashley Jones. Featuring a Grammy-nominated score by Steve Martin an Edie Brickell, Bright Star runs August 30th through September 15th, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm, Sundays at 2:00pm.
Director, Julie Ewing, has assembled an all-star team for her cast, creative team, and special bluegrass Iron Mountain Pickers Band. The story follows Alice Murphy in the Blue Ridge Mountains during the 1920s and 1940s. Audiences will remember Ashton Botts from OCTA's The Drowsy Chaperone, who plays Alice Murphy. When Alice Murphy, the brilliant editor of a southern literary journal, meets Billy Cane, a soldier just home from World War II, they discover a powerful secret that alters their lives. Follow the uplifting journey that is as refreshingly genuine as it is daringly hopeful.
Ewing recounts her first experience with the show and why she wants to share it with OCTA audiences: "I was able to see Bright Star during its Broadway run. I am a huge bluegrass fan and so that is what initially drew me to see the show. As a mother, it struck such a chord. I wanted to stage it like an oral story being told over and over to family and friends out playing music on the back porch on a Sunday evening." She emphasizes how the music and message stayed with her.
Looking at the history of the show, audiences might remember Steve Martin and Edie Brickell's collaboration in 2013 with the bluegrass album Love Has Come For You. One of the songs was inspired by the true-life story of the Iron Mountain Baby, which stuck with them both, so Bright Star came to be.
One of the biggest challenges of the show is the staging. Ewing has put a lot of thought into how the ensemble fits into the action that takes place over three decades in many locations. "The ensemble acts like a Greek Chorus. In order for that to happen they have to remain on stage most of the time. ...It is a fun puzzle to find ways to enhance and not distract the audience. We also jump back and forth in time." The ensemble also plays a character within the show, so the cast works with costume pieces and easy set changes to help the audience follow the various story lines.
To her knowledge, this is the first time the show has been produced outside of academia in the greater KC area. Audiences can expect the hear festive bluegrass tunes and experience "all the feels!" Ewing says, "I can honestly say this is the first show I've directed where the first read through ended with tears and hugs. It is a powerful story, told by some of Kansas City's finest actors and I believe our audience will be thinking on this one long past the finale curtain." Also, the musicians are an exciting, imperative part of staging and will be performing live for the pre-show every night!
Peggy Mall and Ashton Botts as Mama Murphy and Alice Murphy
Ashton Botts as Alice Murphy with female ensemble
Ashton Botts (Alice Murphy) and Charles Christesson Jr. (Daddy Murphy)
The cast and Iron Mountain Pickers Band
Peggy Mall and Charles Christesson Jr. as Mama and Daddy Murphy with Ashton Botts as Alice Murphy
Nathan Bills as Billy Cane and Matt Walberg as Daddy Cane
Nathan Bills (Billy Cane), Patty Whitlock (Lucy), and Tyler Hileman (Darryl)