To say I had a good time at Bright Star: A New Musical is an understatement. I had a blast! It is a very cute show with an outstanding score. Congratulations to Steve Martin & Edie Brickel on a great show.
The story was a little bit predictable, but overall the show is warm and sweet and enjoyable ‘til the last second. The score is very good with many tunes that are both catchy and different sounding at the same time! The onstage band, which is visible in every scene, rocks! More shows should do this.
The show takes place in the American South in the 1920s and ‘40s. When World War II has ended, and the boys are coming home. Among them is Billy Cane (AJ Shively), who returns home to learn that his mother has passed away. His mother was the one who encouraged him to write, so he decides to go to The Asheville Southern Journal. AJ Shivelyis sheer perfection onstage, absolutely thrilling while he is singing and heartbreaking when he is acting.
The show really revolves around the stellar leading lady, Carmen Cusack, who plays Alice Murphy. It is hard to believe this is actually her Broadway debut. She plays a young lover and then her older, sadder self, and performs perfectly in both. She has a great number, “At Long Last” that brings the house down. The show takes us through Alice Murphy’s life; from when she is a young girl and in love to when she is the head of The Asheville Southern Journal. When Alice as was a young girl, she was madly in love with Jimmy Ray Dobbs. Even though her parents tried everything they could to keep her away from boys, trouble comes when Alice gets pregnant. Jimmy Ray’s father, Josiah, hatches a plan to separate the two despite Jimmy Ray’s and Alice’s plans to marry.
In the beginning of the show, we are first introduced to Alice as an adult in a very powerful role of running The Asheville Southern Journal. She seems content, however, her struggle with wanting to know what happened to her baby. Even more painful and troubling is why Jimmy Ray never came to help her find their baby. Through a crazy twist of events, Billy Cane, the young writer she just hired by Alice, turns out to be her baby all grown-up (there is so much more to the story but I won’t include any more spoilers here).
The cast is also full of outstanding singers who truly make the most of the music. There are a lot of great Broadway veterans in this show including Dee Hoty, Stephen Bogardus, Michael Mulheren, and Jeff Blumenkrantz. It was great to see Emily Padgett on stage again. I saw her last in Side Show. While she only gets one solo, she does a great job at it.
This show would be worth seeing for her performance alone, it will keep you entertained the whole time. Check out a special surprise curtain call performance by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell that can be watched here! Check out an exclusive video of the radiant Carmen Cusack performing “Sun Is Gonna Shine.” They are also very social, check them out here.