Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
Also see Bill's review of Rigoletto
Bright Star interweaves the stories of two romantic couples. Inspired in part on the true story of the "Iron Mountain Baby," the musical has the ingredients for good musical comedy. Tears came to my eyes several times, and that is fine with me. I was thoroughly engaged with the lives of the central characters.
In the starring role of Alice Murphy, Meredith Jones gives a luminous performance, equally at home playing 20-year-old Alice and also 23 years later. Blake Price plays Jimmy Ray Dobbs, the boy Alice loves and would have married but for parental interference. Price is a strong leading man, looking fine and singing even better. Max Meyers is Billy Cane, drawn to Ashley Rose as Margo, our second couple. His is the strongest male role in the cast and he inhabits it well. Michael Grieve as Daryl Ames (and other roles) and Rachel Mulcahy as Lucy Grant are the comedy couple and audience pleasers. Her violin playing is wonderful. Travis Mitchell plays the villain, Mayor Dobbs, and uses his powerful bass to very good effect. D.C. Anderson, Mimi Bessette, and William Selby are parental figures as well as other minor characters.
Under the direction of Kate Alexander, with choreography by Ellie Mooney, the production moves fluidly with some really nice stagecraft along the way. Bright Star is not a dance-heavy show, but the cast performs what is required of them effectively. The scenic design by Isabel and Moriah Curley-Clay is up there with much of their very best work, which means it's a major contributing factor to this a production being one to cherish. Kathleen Geldard's costume design is period effective, but not especially lavish. A few extra costume changes for the major characters would have been welcome. Lighting design by Nick Jones and sound design by Thom Korp are top notch.
The score, under the capable hands of music director Paul Helm, is Bright Star's glory. The band is terrific and gets assists from cast members D.C. Anderson (guitar), Mimi Bessette (mandolin), Michael Grieve (second banjo), and the already mentioned Rachel Mulcahy on violin.
I'm thrilled that Bright Star is making its Florida regional premiere in such a fine production. It is a darned good musical, and good regional theaters are where this charmer will prove its merit. Musical theater fans, don't miss this one, it's a joy!
Bright Star runs through January 3, 2020, at Florida Studio Theatre, Gompertz Theatre, 1241 N. Palm Avenue, Sarasota FL. For tickets and information, call the box office at 941-366-9000 or visit www.floridastudiotheatre.org.
Cast (in alphabetical order): Daddy Murphy: D.C. Anderson*
Band (in alphabetical order):