Thursday, June 23, 2016

On Broadway- Bright Star

I was disappointed to hear that Steve Martin and Edie Brickell's Broadway show, Bright Star, was closing so soon. I had heard many good things about the show and about lead actress Carmen Cusack in particular.

Last Sunday I saw a matinee of the show and I am confounded as to why it is closing. Everything about this show works- the story, the Americana music, the performances- I just can't explain it. It's a wonderful show.

The opening number, If You Knew My Story, which was performed by the cast on the Tony Awards, is the perfect way to set the stage for this story. Alice Murphy has a sad tale to tell, one we will soon discover. 

In 1945, young Billy returns home from the war to find that his mother had died. He decides to leave his small town home in North Carolina to pursue his dream of being a published writer. Margo, who works at my dream job in a bookstore, encourages his writing and copy edits for him. She is in love with him, but he has not come to the same conclusion yet.

Billy travels to Asheville to a bring his writing to a prestigious literary journal where he meets Alice Murphy, the tough-as-nails publisher. She likes what she sees and encourages him to try again.

As we flashback to a young Alice, she is a teen living in a small North Carolina town, in love with Jimmy Ray, the scion of the town's wealthy businessman. When she gets pregnant, Jimmy Ray and Alice plan to marry. But Jimmy Ray's father intervenes and plans change.

As I said, this show is wonderful. There is humor, pathos, and emotional scenes; the closer of Act I causes gasps in the audience. There is a terrific six piece band that plays in a cabin on stage that moves as necessary. The band got well deserved huge applause at the end of the show.

The star of the show is Carmen Cusack, who convincingly plays Alice as a smart, joyful teenager and as a buttoned up, all business forty-something publisher. Her voice is clear and lovely and strong and she will be a big star on Broadway in years to come, ala Jessie Mueller.

Emily Padgett and Jeff Blumenkratz give terrific comedic performances as Alice's employees at the journal, and Hannah Elless is wonderful as Margo.

The show closes Sunday, June 26th but I'd be willing to bet it may make it as a touring show. What NYC audiences don't appreciate, the rest of the country just might enjoy.

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