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‘Bright Star’ musical shines on Hilton Head Island stage

Bryce Hall in “Bright Star: A New Musical”
Bryce Hall in “Bright Star: A New Musical”

Bright Star is ... an attic and barn and porch made of wood ... barrels and tables held together by tin and iron ... rust and dust ... suitcases .... fiddles, a banjo, piano and a concertina ... Alice and Jimmy Ray ... a strand of mountains framed by a starry, starry night ... Billy ... a bridge and river ... shelves and books ... singing, sawing, strumming, and stompin’ ... a little blue sweater ... umbrellas and grandiflora roses ...

“Bright Star: A New Musical,” wholly captivating and original, absolutely succeeds at every turn. Romantic, sentimental, even magical, and not without mystery, this amazing production will capture your attention and imagination and hold you in its grip.

The impact of the stunning script and storyline, along with the over-the-top performances of the actors, singers, dancers and musicians, simply stop you in your tracks. The dramatic settings combine with all else to provide a clear view to what was and what will be.

At its heart, the messages delivered so brilliantly are about love and redemption.

This brand new production provides enormous visual gifts and references, too, as we carefully take in the details of a lifestyle we unearth in the communities nestled in the mountains of North Carolina during two decades ... the ‘20s and ’40s. The jaw-dropping outcome of the talented, enthusiastic, energetic and youthful Southeast Summer Theatre Institute’s production will stop you in your tracks.

Staged at the Seahawk Cultural Center on Hilton Head Island, the scenic design, along with the opening sounds of the score coming from a cluster of musicians — who, by the way, blend and merge with the actors and dancers on stage — simply astound.

The importance of the music just becomes the more so as Bright Star begins to spin its messages of old and new, past and present, dark and light, perseverance and hope — and through it all, redemption, love and promise.

More about Bright Star

The regional premier of “Bright Star: A New Musical,” was staged last Friday night to an appreciative and enthusiastic audience. The brilliant work, written by actor, comedian, playwright, producer and musician Steve Martin, and songwriter Edie Brickell with lyrics by Ms. Brickell and the book by Martin, is completely involving, complex, compelling and on the mark. A two-act musical theater piece, it features a remarkable cast of SSTI ... performers, members of the crew, or those providing technical and special support.

The involving and evolving storyline follows the particular activities of two generations, and continually offers delightful and insightful messages and metaphors to describe and add dimension to the lead characters, the ensemble members, and the settings.

The script advances impressively as we note and absorb earlier memories, then follow new perspectives, all providing us the opportunity to gaze clear-eyed at a future of promise.

Directed and choreographed by Broadway’s Joe Barros, who, happily for all of us, passes along the simplicity and magic of storytelling and the American folk tradition. Look forward to the singing and dancing, the foot-stomping, clogging and more, especially during the bluegrass tunes. The musical direction is masterfully seen to by Andrew Haile Austin, as is the scenic design, by Libby Stadstad.

The script

A sweeping tale of love and redemption, Bright Star is, in the final analysis, the story of one woman, Alice Murphy, at two different points in her life ... first, when she is a kind of dreamer, a rebellious young girl, growing up in North Carolina, and completely in love with Jimmy Ray, the mayor’s son. The birth of their baby boy is dealt with by his ambitious parents, who interfere in a very serious and tragic way, making impossible, any bright future they might share.

The storyline, woven impressively to glimpse another time in the future, and further, to define the elements of that passage of time, we see Alice again, now an editor of a prestigious magazine, some 22 years later. It is then when a young man, a promising writer named Billy, enters her world, and with whom she finds that she shares a series of mysterious connections.

Eventually, through a close-up look at the past and into the future, there is created the most impossible, unbelievable outcome ... which I must not reveal here, but which will underscore again, the possibilities associated with redemption and love.

“Bright Star: A New Musical” is a kind of gestural poem, in a way, or a dimensional painting, even, with lots of rich texture, and supported by the sounds, and words of Martin and Brickell and the brilliant cast of characters whose participation actualize and bring to life this astonishing musical.

If you go

What: The regional premier of “Bright Star a New Musical” produced by Southeastern Summer Theatre Institute.

When: Aug. 2 and Aug. 3, 7:30 p.m.; Aug. 4, 2 p.m.

Where: Seahawk Cultural Center at Hilton Head Island High School, 70 Wilborn Road.

Tickets: Adults $25, students $20. Tickets can be purchased online at www.HHISummerMusicals.com or by calling 866-749-2228.

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