Los Angeles Theater Review: BRIGHT STAR (Musical Theatre West in Long Beach)

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by Joan Alperin on October 24, 2018

in Theater-Los Angeles


Bright Star is a bittersweet bluegrass musical with music, book and lyrics by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell. It was nominated for five Tony awards when it ran on Broadway and it’s easy to see why.

The story takes place in two time periods, 1923 and 1946. When the play opens we meet Alice Murphy (Anna Mintzer) who is a successful editor of  The Asheville Southern Journal. She’s one of those women that can intimidate you with one look. We are told that instead of overseeing other people’s stories she is going to tell her own (“If You Knew My Story”).
We then travel to Hayes Creek where aspiring writer, Billy Crane (Taubert Nadalini) has just returned home from fighting in World War II to discover that his mother has died. Several weeks later Billy visits his girlfriend Margo (Paige Herschel) and tells her he’s going to submit his stories to the Journal (“Bright Star”). When Billy visits the paper, he accidentally encounters Alice, who for some reason feels a connection to the young writer. From the encouragement she gives him, Billy decides to settle down in Asheville and pursue a writing career.
Then we flashback to Zebulon, North Carolina, in 1923 when Alice was a carefree teenager experiencing young love for the first time with the Mayor’s son, Jimmy Ray Dobbs (Devin Archer). Her fling with him changes her life in a way she never expected. Some of the scenes are melodramatic but the characters are so charming that it’s easy to overlook those moments. And on the original sets from Broadway, director and choreographer Richard Gatta does a great job taking us smoothly through the two time periods.

photos by Caught in the Moment Photography

Bright Star
Musical Theatre West
Richard and Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center
6200 E. Atherton at Cal State Long Beach
ends on November 4, 2018
for tickets, call 562.856.1999 or visit Musical

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