BWW Review: BRIGHT STAR National Tour at North Carolina Theatre
Originating from the 2013 collaborative album by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell titled Love Has Come for You, Bright Star tells a sweeping tale of love and redemption set against the rich backdrop in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina in the 1920s and '40s. The musical was inspired by the true story of a five-day-old baby who fell approximately 50 feet from a train into Big River in Irondale, Missouri on August 14th, 1902.
After having its world premiere at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, California on September 28th, 2014, Bright Star later came to Broadway on March 24th, 2016. While critical reviews were mixed, the production received 5 Tony Award nominations (including Best Musical). Unfortunately, Bright Star not only failed to win any accolades on Tony night (largely thanks to Hamilton), but it also struggled to find an audience as the production closed on June 26th of that year after 109 performances. Yet, thanks to the popularity of its Grammy nominated cast recording, a national tour was launched that's currently running through July 1st before Bright Star will officially be available for licensing.
As the musical begins, we meet the main character, Alice Murphy, who sings the opening number that's appropriately titled 'If You Knew My Story'. From there, the story unfolds like a novel as we go back and forth from seeing Alice as a enthusiastic teenage girl in the 1920's to a more mature woman in the 1940's. Actress Audrey Cardwell does a fantastic job at conveying all those range of emotions the character goes through.
The rest of the cast is also very good. Henry Gottfried gives a charismatic performance as Billy Cane, an aspiring writer who had just returned home from World War II. Patrick Cummings as Jimmy Ray Dobbs has an impressive character arc as he goes from this carefree boy in the 1920's to a more mature man in the 1940's. Liana Hunt gives a heartfelt performance as Billy's childhood friend, Margo Crawford. As Alice's employees at the Asheville Southern Journal, Kaitlyn Davidson and Jeff Blumenkrantz (reprising his role from the Broadway production) both serve as comedic highlights in their respective roles of Lucy Grant and as Daryl Ames.
Steve Martin & Edie Brickell have crafted a score that is catchy, original, unique, and is brought to life by August Eriksmoen's beautiful orchestrations. While the script by Martin is different from what you'd expect by a comedian like him, it still has its moments of great humor. The production directed by Walter Bobbie features some inventive lighting designed by Japhy Weideman, a small moving house from set designer Eugene Lee that very cleverly has the band playing in, and choreography by Josh Rhodes that's authentic to the music, period, and setting.
The musical itself is a sweet, sentimental show that has several moments (especially at the end of Act I) where audiences should be left with a lump in their throats. Yet, there are also moments where audiences should get teary-eyed as well (for good reasons). Not to mention that audiences should gasp when a reveal is made near the end of the show. Overall, I would absolutely recommend Bright Star (especially to all those North Carolinians)!
This national touring production is currently playing at the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium through April 22nd. For more information, please visit: