Review: Bright Star

Bligh Voth (foreground) and the cast of Bright Star               Photo by KO Rinearson

By Larry Laneer
April 5, 2019

The bluegrass musical Bright Star teeters with unevenness, but it’s what they call a real crowd pleaser. You are excused from going along with the masses.

Created by comedian/actor/banjoist Steve Martin and singer/songwriter Edie Brickell, Bright Star taps its toes now at the Plaza under Michael Baron’s efficient direction. Ashley Wells did the choreography, including a square dance with a genuine caller.

The show must take place in the Asheville, North Carolina, area at the end of the Second World War (Lyric’s program provides no information). A soldier returns home in uniform, and the Southern drawls are pure cornpone.

Two story lines concern the soldier and an imperious editor of a local literary journal. The characters have problems, and the problems become exacerbated the more people try to fix them. As the musical unfolds, we see how the characters came to where they are and, finally, how they will go on with their lives. The show demands credulity. Would these people confess the sins and tell the secrets they do? I don’t buy it. These secrets would be taken to the grave.

Bligh Voth plays the journal editor. The role makes her range from mature buttoned-up professional to younger family black sheep. Voth runs the gamut and does so with a strong singing voice. As the soldier and aspiring writer, Ken Singleton does a fine job and reeks with small-town South. Michael Isaac is convincing as an unrequited suitor of the journal editor.

Jonathan Beck Reed bellows and fumes in the role of one of the most abhorrent villains to come down the pike in a long time. Zak Reynolds and Lexi Windsor play workers at the journal who seem to exist solely for comic relief (with mixed results).

Jeffrey Meek’s handsome costumes look period authentic, especially the women’s dresses. The scenic design by Shawn Irish consists mainly of horizontal planks and two rolling wooden monoliths that serve many functions. Other portable props help smooth the many scene changes.

The score includes soulful ballads, up-tempo tunes, and a little waltz, all rendered with clarity by the cast. An excellent, seven-piece string band accompanies the show, featuring Patrick Conlon’s fine fiddle playing.

Although the singing and acting are well-done, and the songs are pleasant enough, the show has some clunky dialog and retreaded gags. And it relies on that hoary theatrical device convenient coincidence. The way three couples come together at the end is downright Shakespearean. But the production had the audience at the reviewed performance on their feet at the end, clapping rhythmically with the music. The crowd seemed pleased.

Bright Star by Steve Martin (music, book, story) and Edie Brickell (music, lyrics, story)
Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma

7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays, 8:00 p.m. Fridays,
2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Saturdays, 2:00 p.m. Sundays, through April 28
2:00 p.m. Saturday, April 13, American Sign Language interpreted
Plaza Theatre
1725 NW 16th St.
tickets start at $25