Review: “Bright Star” Shines at CTGLA

Carmen Cusack in Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s “Bright Star.” All Uses © 2017 Craig Schwartz

Center Theatre Group’s production of the Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin) and Edie Brickell’s “Bright Star” is a winner. Is it a tad bit corny? Yes. Somewhat unbelievable? Sure. But then, isn’t that one of the reasons we enjoy musical theatre — to suspend reality and lose ourselves in a world where people sing about their feelings and even the miraculous is possible?

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L-R: A.J. Shively, Carmen Cusack and Patrick Cummings in Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s “Bright Star.” All Uses © 2017 Craig Schwartz

We move back and forth between two intertwined stories and timelines — the 1920’s where witty and fiesty Alice (played by the stunningly talented, Tony-nominated Carmen Cusack) and hunky and affluent Jimmy Ray (Patrick Cummings) fall in love across a socio-economic divide, leading to tragedy; the other takes place in the 1940’s, where Billy Cane (A.J. Shively) a young, aspiring writer heads to the big city to pursue his literary dreams and where he runs into a now mostly jaded, but delightfully acerbic Alice as the editor of the Asheville Southern Journal and her show-stealing gatekeepers, Daryl (Jeff Blumenkrantz) and Lucy (Kaitlyn Davidson). Both journeys unfold seamlessly through a melodious and contextually effective songbook tinged with country and bluegrass, and keep the two-hour run-time moving at locomotive speed.

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L-R: A.J. Shively, Kaitlyn Davidson and Jeff Blumenkrantz in Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s “Bright Star.” All Uses © 2017 Craig Schwartz

The production design by Eugene Lee is both minimal yet elegant, anchored by a moveable wooden shack which domiciles the musicians. A few deft moves and in front of your eyes, the whole scene and ambiance changes. The genius of the musical, which elicited a sustained and passionate audience response, is it’s accessibility; it take a slice of Americana — devoid of multiculturalism — yet manages to touch everyone. After all, who can’t relate to chasing dreams, star-crossed lovers, heartbreak and the capacity for hope?

— Ghalib Dhalla

Playing at the Ahmanson Theatre through 11/19. Get tickets here.