Archikulture Digest
Bright Star

Bright Star

Theater UCF • Orlando, Florida

by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell

Directed by Michael Wainstein

Starring Amy Lacey, Colby Bell, Jameson Stobbe, Zachary Racine

The program says “gentle spirited,” but this epic southern drama features infant abuse, teen pregnancy, corn liquor, and toad hunting. It is a great musical, and it pulls off a happy ending with an enormous, overwhelming production, a cast of over twenty, and a nine-piece ensemble providing period music. “massive” might have been a better adjective.

We begin the story in the small town of Zebulon, North Carolina in 1946. World War II might be over, but the “war between the states” rages on. More to the point, the thought of children picking their own spouses remains anathema for the well-to-do. Boss “Daddy” Cane (Zachary Racine) runs a decent-sized trucking company and the town itself. He insists his son, Billy Cane (Jameson Stobbe), marry a girl he chooses, and certainly not the poor Alice Murphy (Lacey). Oops, that’s awkward, as she is already just a bit pregnant, so Daddy, being a good Christian, tosses the baby into a river. He’s a real ray of sunshine. Now twenty years have passed, Alice is a newspaper editor, and guess who shows up just in time for a happy ending?

I’m leaving out many details, and the show does require more attention than usual. As this is a musical, the tunes reflect the mountain music of the area. We begin with the touching opener “If You Knew My Story,” sung by Alice and the entire cast. The musical support is amazing, delivering the goods in multiple styles. I’m pretty sure there were twelve musicians, but it was a crowded set, and some were tucked way in back. Overall, the music kept the show lively and gave it a sense of motion. There are implausible elements, but this is a story, it does have a fairy tale aura, and this is musical theater.

The moral of the story line points out the hypocrisy of the small-town boss and the ancient rule that dad picks your mate, and if the couple doesn’t get along, tough nuggies. Racism is never a real issue on this stage, that’s a separate story for a small-town musical. Daddy Cain is deliciously evil, and it’s a joy to see him symbolically descend into his own personal hell.

Small-town life in the South is a fertile breeding ground for drama, with the scenes in the newspaper editing office showing a slender sliver of light in this postwar fairy tale.

Theater UCF


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