By Emilee Hatfield
We modern audiences are very picky in the sense when it comes to storytelling. Whether it be a television show, a film, or a form of theatre, there is always an underlying expectation that the narrative will provide us with layers of complex character development or saddening backstory by the end that we are left with utter joy or a gut wrenching truth. But what happens when modern audiences are given a more simplistic tale, with a character and journey that sticks to the construct of what would be considered an improbable romantic plot?
The bluegrass musical, Bright Star, that opened at the Arvada Center for The Arts and Humanities Friday night, answers this with having its audience on their feet by the end with simple storytelling with its ending tugging at your heartstrings. To get to that ending though feels at some moments a bit hard to sit through if you aren't a fan of a more historical setting with a bit a "Hallmark" channel twist.
The story follows a young aspiring author Billy Cane (Jake Mendes),as he returns to the states after World War II, determined to get published with the Asheville Southern Journal. He is met of course with the sass of employees, scene stealing, wise cracking Daryl (Elliot Peterson) and forward, hysterically witty Lucy (Rebecca Spence). As his journey to convince editor Alice Murphy to publish his stories in the journal unfolds, the audience finds themselves sent back in time to the 20's discovering Alice's own journey of being a writer and the love story between her and sweetheart Jimmy Ray. With must met plot points of true southern charm, the musical carries it's own with what is essentially the its backbone being in its wonderful score.
Bluegrass is such an enduring genre of music. Its history, the musicians, the culture that comes along with it, sometimes is far too charming to both the eye and the ear. Especially if you are one that has grown up around its irresistible melodies. Growing up in Southern Appalachia I was never against the opportunity to get lost in the beauty of this genre and it is through Martin's amazing and simply sweet score that the show's too good to be true plot is able to trek on.
Perhaps it is more so the idea that shows must present a more dramatic impact on its audience in today's society. Yet Bright Star takes the less traveled route in its too good to be true narrative in a time where everything else tells us nothing is so black and white.
The musical itself is based on a true story, which tells its audience that sometimes life can be that simple, and that true love still does exist no matter how lacking it is in our world. Which by the shows end is very welcomed and justly rewarded.
Overall I must praise the entire cast, for encasing that warmth of southern personalty that leaves a smile on every single audience members face. Both Elliot Peterson and Rebecca Spence are perfectly cut gems in their characters, giving that slight spice of comedy that the show desperately needs during its realistic and heart hardening first act. While Meredith Kaye Clarke as Alice Murphy has the audience in the palm of her hands from the second she steps foot on that stage. Her transition from a hard working editor with an eye chuck full of life experience seamlessly disappears the second she begins to transport us to her younger, naive self of the past.
With great direction from Rod. A Lansberry, it is easy to find that the shows heart rests in the bask of a mother's endearment for her child. Bright Star's amazing score, and heartfelt performances create a production that merely asks you to sit back in the atmosphere of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and enjoy a humbling , enduring tale of a mother's love that will warm your heart.
Bright Star is running at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities from September 6th- September 29th. For more information visit the website at https://arvadacenter.org/bright-star or call the box office at 720-898-7200