Goshen College students, faculty and community members gathered at the Umble Center on March 15 for the opening performance of “Bright Star,” the spring mainstage musical. There were three performances last weekend and two more on March 22 and 24.
Written by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, “Bright Star” offers a story of family that will leave a smile on your face. The bluegrass and americana influenced musical travels back and forth through time to tell a tale of love, loss and redemption in midcentury North Carolina.
“Bright Star” did not have much attention when it was first released, as it was the same year as Lin Manuel Miranda’s box-office megahit “Hamilton.” Being fairly new, Goshen’s production is the first exposure to the Martin and Brickell collaboration for many audience members.
The show opens with a musical number from the lead Alice Murphy, a successful editor with a complex past, played by junior Lauren Myers. Myers’ solo sets the tone for the musical, letting the audience know they’re in for a wild ride.
“Alice Murphy is a really intelligent character,” said Myers. “She’s quick-witted and self-made and still caring and feminine. I appreciate that she is a three dimensional character.”
A key factor to this show is the music. In GC’s production, a band featuring students, faculty and hired musicians remain on stage throughout the show.
“I was first drawn to this musical because of the music,” said Anna Kurtz Kuk, who directed the production. “We decided to put the band on stage to really highlight the music and add to the storytelling.”
Ethan Lapp, a junior, didn’t know much about “Bright Star” before seeing it, but what he saw “left an impression,” he said. “The music and choreography were fantastic.”
Delphin Monga, also a junior, agrees. “I thought the music was really good,” he said. “The band was good and the singing was really awesome.”
Bright Star’s plot swings high and low with moments of romance, intense loss and reconciliation. Steve Martin’s playful humor is sprinkled throughout it all, a reminder that everyone is there to have a good time.
“I was reminded of the incredible journey this story takes audience members on when I heard an audience experience the show for the first time Friday night,” remarked Kurtz Kuk. “After working on this project for so many months, I forget how engrossing the story is.”
“The show had a perfect balance of emotional and light-hearted scenes, which were all well-performed,” said Lapp. “Because of that, I never looked at my watch or hoped that it would be over. And afterward, I couldn’t stop smiling.”
The directors, cast, and crew have worked tirelessly for the past two months to make the opening weekend a success.
Senior Jonah Yoder is the stage manager for “Bright Star,” which means he is “there from the beginning of the process to the end of the process,” he said. “I’m the one that bridges the gap between the directors and the designers and the actors.”
Having been involved in almost every part of the preparation for the show, Yoder says he has most enjoyed the final week of rehearsal when all the parts came together. “We had lighting and sound getting into the mix, and then the band came in, and seeing the actors in their costumes,” he said. “Just bringing everything together is so exciting.”
“It has truly been a collaborative effort by all involved,” said Kurtz Kuk. “The creativity and positive energy of the students involved in this process have really made it a special project. It takes a lot of rehearsal time, dedication, and sacrifice for the students involved in the process- their hard work is definitely evident during the performance.”
For Myers, the collaborative nature of rehearsals has been especially enjoyable. “I liked quite a few things about Bright Star, but I would have to say that my favorite was the team atmosphere,” she said. “This is the smallest cast that I’ve ever worked with in a musical and I really appreciated the opportunity to get to know the people involved in this show in a more intimate way.”
There are still two more performances of this year’s spring mainstage: March 22 at 7:30 p.m. and March 24 at 2:30 p.m.. Tickets can be purchased online at goshen.edu/tickets, by calling 574-535-7566 or at the door beginning one hour prior to the show beginning.
Kurtz Kuk says there’s plenty for audience members to look enjoy in this weekend’s performances. “They can definitely look forward to being engrossed in an entertaining story for a couple of hours,” she said. “One of my favorite parts about theater is the brief escape it offers, while at the same time illuminating experiences and aspects of our own lives.”
Kurtz Kuk puts it best in her director’s notes: “In a time in our world when we need it most, this is a musical that leaves us feeling that hope is not lost; that we are never alone.”