Bright Star, the bluegrass musical by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell from 2014 is currently have its Regional debut in Anoka's Lyric Arts theater. The show has a beautiful score, and a story that makes the show feel much older than 5 years (in a good way). The story takes place in North Carolina and jumps back and forth in time between the jazz age (1922-23) and just after WWII (1946) in a seamless manner that still makes it very easy to follow the story. Bright Star is the story of Alice Murphy a precocious young woman who grows up to be an editor of a literary journal, and a young man Billy Cane, recently returned from the war who dreams of being a writer.
The score is beautiful, and as a fan of folk music I got a sort of thrill of seeing a banjo and a mandolin on stage along with the band. The band lead by music director Elise Santa is the back bone of this show whose strength is in the music. And they are appropriately placed center stage, with the action going on sometimes only inches away from the musicians making the whole experience feel much more immediate.
The show is anchored by Katie Strom Rozanas as Alice Murphy who handles the age changes between young and older Alice with deft and whose strong voice gets the show off to a great start with "If You Knew My Story", Cam Pederson as Billy Cane who perfectly portrayed his hung go spirit and great talent and Chris Paulson as Jimmy Ray Dobbs captured the heart of Jimmy Ray's rebellious spirit. Nykeigh Larson also gave a fantastic and memorable performance as Lucy Grant, elevating the musical number "Another Round" to the best in the show.
The set design by Katie Phillips is a simple and yet entirely effective story telling device. The band is at the center playing on a raised platform resembling a porch, which allows for more dynamic action and also effectively sets the scene. The rest of the pieces of scenery smoothly roll off and on stage between scenes, to transport us between 1922 and 1946, between a book store and an office building or a bar. The simple nature of the set communicates everything the audience needs to know while still allowing the story to shine thru.
Bright Star is a perfect show for anyone who is a fan of folk music, or has been intrigued by the story of the Iron Mountain Baby, of which this story is roughly based upon. It is playing at Lyric Arts until September 29th. Click here for more information about the show and how to get tickets.
*Photo Credit: Twin Cities Headshots