Review: BRIGHT STAR at Derby Dinner Playhouse

The production runs now through October 2nd

By: Sep. 07, 2022
Review: BRIGHT STAR at Derby Dinner Playhouse
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Derby Dinner Playhouse is known for it's crowd pleasing entertainment. While their usual fare seems to be cheesy fun; every once in a while they pick a lesser known gem of a show that audiences didn't know they would love. For example, Derby Dinner's production of Bonnie and Clyde comes to mind when I think about it in that fashion, and I'd say Bright Star falls into the category of a lesser known show turned real crown pleaser when they give it a chance.

Written by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, Bright Star opened on Broadway in 2016. It was sadly overlooked thanks to bigger shows like Waitress, School of Rock, and of course Hamilton which all opened that same season. The show closed on Broadway in June of 2016 and proceeded to have a very limited national tour. Those who saw it remember it fondly, as will the new audiences who will discover it in years to come.

The story centers around the life of Alice Murphy, (Sara King). Flashing back and forth from her youth and the present (1945), her story of love, loss, and redemption unfolds before you. The plot isn't an easy one to describe, as it's ripe for spoilers, but alternate to Alice's storyline, we meet Billy Kane (Michael Evans), a soldier who has just returned home from war to find home much different than when he left it, with stars in his eyes he sets out to become a writer.

This cast is incredibly strong, I'd venture to say maybe one of the strongest casts Derby Dinner has ever assembled. They effortlessly lift Martin and Brickell's bluegrass inspired score off the page and fill the theatre with warmth. Sara King as Alice Murphy is phenomenal. She carries the show on her shoulders and never once do you see her break under that enormous weight. King's vocals soar within the bluegrass style. Michael Evans as Billy matches her charisma and professionalism, giving a strong vocal performance and nuanced acting as well. Without giving too much away, Tyler Bliss is incredibly dreamy as Jimmy Ray, he and King work very well together. Other standouts include, Cami Glauser as Margo, Elizabeth Loos as Mama Murphy, Taylor Thomas as Lucy, and Bobby Conte as Daryl. All of the aforementioned give wonderful performances that I wish I could delve deeper into, but alas, the spoilers.

The set for the production is simple but effective for the show, with the 'in the round' set up only sometimes being a problem. Director Lee Buckholtz could've spread the love a little bit more when it comes to angling the action to all portions of the audience. A lot of his staging is very strong, but some scenes feel a bit over produced with superfluous ensemble and scenery, sometimes less is more when it comes to some of the more intimate moments of the story. I will give Buckholtz loads of praise for his innovative interpretation of the infamous train sequence. I can't give context, but you'll know the moment when it happens.

Bright Star is undeniably a hidden gem of musical theatre. It's not popular, it didn't win any awards, and when it was on Broadway it had everything possible stacked against it. I was supposed to see the show back in 2016, but its premature closure robbed me of that opportunity. So I'm overjoyed that such a high quality production has made its way into the area. This show cuts a little deeper than Derby's usual lighthearted fare, but it's worth taking the journey to redemption with these astounding characters. If you're on the fence, I do urge you to take a chance on this show and fall in love.


Now - October 2nd

Derby Dinner Playhouse

525 Marriott Drive

Clarksville, IN 47129

(812) 288-8281