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‘Bright Star,’ by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, rises at LA’s Ahmanson

By in Press Enterprise on October 29, 2017

By Dany Margolies

“Bright Star” is a fairly new musical by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell. It had a life on Broadway last year and has arrived at L.A.’s Ahmanson Theatre.

It is banal, clichéd, predictable. Its music is unoriginal and unmemorable. At the top of the show, the staging choices seem dumbfounding.

And yet, it is utterly enchanting, thoroughly engaging and as uplifting as storytelling can get.
It’s not simply that we blue-staters of New York and California are desperate for cheerful distractions. This musical’s charms — and they abound — are subtle, and they gently nestle up to us.

Perhaps that’s because the story reflects the better sides of our humanity, most of its characters doing the right thing and the universe righting the wrongs when they don’t.

Maybe just those factors are enough to keep the audience’s spirits rising.

Or maybe it’s that the theatermakers don’t pander. The show isn’t loud, doesn’t rely on effects, has no big numbers — though Josh Rhodes’ dances are a satisfying mix of Appalachian clog-dancing and original movement.

For the grumpy theatergoer, however, it takes time for the charms to seep through us. First, we may be annoyed by the band shell: a huge wooden shack centerstage that dominates the playing area (scenic design by Eugene Lee). During the course of the musical it gets pushed and twirled around the stage.

For a while, it seems to dominate the story and the show. Eventually it becomes unnoticeable, though every once in a while watching the onstage band provides even more enjoyment.

But first we meet Alice. Played by Carmen Cusack, Alice strikes us as bright and independent. Turns out that’s understating it. Alice says she has a story to tell. That’s understating it, too.

The story whipsaws us back and forth in time in and around North Carolina. Bright young Alice defies her parents […]    

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