By Sarah Schultz
A talented community of performers and creators are reviving Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s Bright Star. Inspired by a true story, this musical brings a spot of Southern warmth to the Chaska Valley Family Theatre stage.
Under Sean Barker’s musical direction, the string heavy pit orchestra perfectly captures the spirit of the show. They pluck out front porch ambiance and beautifully accompany the soaring melodies. The cast boasts incredibly strong vocals as well. They fall easily into the relaxed country vibe of the show without sounding twangy. The chorus hits its peak in “At Long Last,” swelling powerfully and overwhelming the auditorium with sound.
Brie Stole shines as Alice Murphy. Her voice is sweet and easy. It comes in gently, leaving ample space to intensify. Stole pulls out all the stops in the agonizing number “Please Don’t Take Him.” She hurls forth a piercing a powerful belt, a jarring contrast to her character’s lack of agency in this scene. Stole also flips expertly between teenage Alice and middle age Alice. As the older character, her movements are slower and heavier. Her speech is slower and smoother.
Eric Riner manages to steal a few moments as the mayor’s assistant Stanford. He’s the only person in town without a lilting North Carolina accent. He also never waxes poetic. Instead, he emits single sentences in a gritty yet nasal monotone. The most absurd being a flat, expressionless, “I adore children.”
Daddy Cane (played by Matt Downs) possesses all the charm Stanford lacks. He’s an ideal father- a little slow, a little silly, and unconditionally loving. Director Zachary Hedner orchestrates a delightful scene of Daddy Cane and Billy Cane’s first moments together. The audience gets to watch through the mist as a hillbilly frog hunter becomes a father.
Bright Star will warm your heart, break it, then mend it again. Experience it now through March 27. For tickets and information visit www.cvft.org.