Opening night of Bright Star by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell ended up being one of LA Theatre Nerd’s special edition theatrical events of 2017, for no particular reason. I guess you could say I just felt like dressing up. Luckily, I have a truly amazing hairdresser, Michelle, here in Santa Monica (seriously, she goes beyond just cuts with her magical styling). She knows how much I love big hair and really mastered my mane with a modern spin on a 60s classic tease. She laughs at me because both times she has done my hair for theatrical events, she says I am the complete opposite of a nerd, looks-wise. I tell her that she’s confusing geeks with nerds, that it’s a mentality, that it’s a lifestyle and then she laughs at me even more. I also have my friend Abby, who completed my million dollar look, giving me a full face of makeup, lashes, contouring and all, in fifteen minutes! Wowie! These girls are real artists and professionals at that, so feel free to contact me if you ever need hair or makeup for special events.
I had the honor of bringing fabulous Abby with me to opening night. I was a little nervous of how she would like the show because we had a hard act to follow; our last hang out was Chance the Rapper at the Hollywood Bowl, where I pretty much died and went to heaven. Bright Star was new to both of us and I had intentionally not looked at any content or plot description of the show. I wanted to be surprised. And considering the Tony buzz that the show had received over a year ago, I had a good feeling about that.
I had a very positive impression of this production. At the end of the day, the story is a bit predictable and holds more to be desired from a progressive theatre-making standpoint, topically. There are a few components plot-wise that were close, but for a new musical, could have better served our contemporary concerns, even though the show takes place in the past. That one thing aside, I would recommend seeing this musical because this is as close as an original musical can get to truly honoring the style, themes and objectives of traditional American musical theatre. Plus we get a strong female lead, playing a range of levels throughout her character’s story arch. It is very clear why Carmen Cusack was nominated for a Tony award in this role. If it hadn’t been the year of the Hamilton, she might have had a shot. But she certainly didn’t throw away her shot (ha). She is clearly extensively trained and her voice is actually flawless! Her performance is something to be praised on a number of levels, so please go to this show for that alone! Apart from her fabulousity, as mentioned briefly before, Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s score will sweep you off your feet and into the heartland of the American South, in not an overwhelmingly southern way. Beautiful score. There was also some jaw-droppingly delightful choreography to complement, thanks to Josh Rhodes. Very innovative choreography that really animated the story, paying homage to the era and the region. Well done team.
It was not so much the message of the show but the production value and talent that encouraged change within me this time. I was so inspired by the sound and movement of these musical theatre actors that it encouraged me to get back up on my musical theatre A-game a bit. The cast is exceptional, and the ensemble served the development of the story in a major way. Part of me was intimidated by their talent, while another part encourage a resurgence of music in my theatre life. Musical theatre is the instigating factor of my theatre interests from the start, and maybe it’s time to swing back to the roots. Bright Star runs at the Ahmanson Theatre through November 19th.