TIO NYC: “Bright Star,” A Review

TIO NYC: “Bright Star,” A Review

I ain’t telling no lie (or my nose would grow like Pinocchio): when you wish upon a “Bright Star,” your dreams of a magical night on Broadway come true.

Carmen Cusack makes her Broadway debut in “Bright Srar.” (courtesy, broadway.com)

Carmen Cusack makes her Broadway debut in “Bright Srar.” (courtesy, broadway.com)

The inspiration for Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s unapologetically old-fashioned, twangy musical is based on a real-life, incident from 1902 involving a babe torn from its mother at infancy. From there, Dickensian plot holes as deep as the Grand Canyon abound: parallel time, an encounter many years later between strangers unaware of their deep connection, a conveniently timed ah ha moment, and a rapturous Hollywood ending, complete with matching betrothals.

Corn piled as high as an elephant’s eye, the whole thing is something only Shakespeare could pull off – along with director Walter Bobbie (a Tony winner for “Chicago”). Robbie is aided and abetted by the A team: choreographer Josh Rhodes; set designer Eugene Lee; costume designer Jane Greenwood; and Rob Berman’s pitch-perfect musical direction and vocal arrangements.

From the get-go, the lead, an incandescent Carmen Cusack, (making her Broadway debut as Alice Murphy), just like one of those like the psychic surgeons from the Philippines, reaches into the heart of the audience and begins pulling the strings.

And she never lets go.

But no one seemed to  mind.

Stay home if you never believed in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.

If apple pie and ice cream give you a toothache.

If you cringe at the sight of a Hallmark card or Kodak moment.

At a time our country appears to be in need of catharsis, the disarming sweetness and sincerity of this sepia-toned bluegrass musical could prove be an antidote – or at least a welcomed respite – to the anger and cynicism that has infected the zeitgeist.

As curtain came down on “Bright Star,” we watched grown men weep for joy.

The following is a review by Charles Isherwood in the New York Times.

Bluegrass on Broadway? Yes sirree. The warming sounds of banjos, fiddles and even an accordion are filling the Cort Theater, where the musical “Bright Star” opened on Thursday, bringing a fresh breeze from the South to the spring theater season.

Perhaps more surprising is the source of the songs that give a heady lift to this nostalgia-tinged show, a romantic tale set in North Carolina in the 1920s and the 1940s. The authors are Steve Martin, better known as a comic, actor and occasional novelist, and Edie Brickell, who rose to pop-chart fame some time ago. (They collaborated on the music and the story, with Mr. Martin providing the book and Ms. Brickell the lyrics.)

It’s not just the unusual flavor of its music that makes “Bright Star” something of an outlier on Broadway. The musical is gentle-spirited, not gaudy, and moves with an easygoing grace where others prance and strut. And it tells a sentiment-spritzed story — of lives torn apart and made whole again — that you might be more likely to encounter in black and white, flickering from your flat-screen on Turner Classic Movies.

The protagonist, Alice Murphy, portrayed by Carmen Cusack — making a simply gorgeous Broadway debut — is a spunky girl in her late teens in the scenes set in the 1920s. A dreamer with a rebellious streak and a hunger for literature, she’s causing a fine ruckus in the sleepy town of Zebulon, striking up a clandestine romance with Jimmy Ray Dobbs the son of the powerful mayor, with traumatic consequences.

Hannah Elless and A. J. Shively in the musical “Bright Star,” at the Cort Theater. He wants to be a writer; she wants him. Credit Sara Krulwich/The New York Times 

But before we meet the younger Alice, we meet the grown woman, in 1945,…

Continue reading here.


1 Comment
  • S Fuller
    Posted at 04:38h, 11 April

    Well written. Though I have not seen it… And the corn can get too high, for my taste, your touting of the fresh, talented, leading lady sparked my interest.