There is still time to catch the Tony-nominated, incandescent performance of Carmen Cusack in Bright Star at The Ahamanson, and catch it you should. It’s a rare opportunity for Angelenos to see not only the star in the Broadway role she originated but also the majority of the Broadway cast, many of whom have been with the show since it’s workshop days four years ago. I would argue that this kind of long term intimacy between actor and character is something that comes through in ways that are rich and palpable for the audience.
Created by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, Bright Star is good, old fashioned storytelling at its best and has a score that is irresistible. Inspired by a real event, Martin and Brickell take us to the life and times of Alice Murphy in 1920’s-1940’s North Carolina where her heartbreaking story of love, loss and redemption unfolds. The blue grass band is on stage and part of the story, playing in a country cabin that moves and rotates seamlessly through the action. It may seem odd to mention scene transitions but here they are literally choreographed into the storyline and the result is breathtaking. The precision of the actors movements and Josh Rhodes choreography create a beautiful story ballet that is utterly engaging.
Carmen Cusack will take your breath away as the whip-smart, quick witted and determined Alice Murphy. She stunningly plays Murphy as both a young teenager full of passion and a 40 year-old, accomplished editor who has been through life’s pain and sorrow. She will break your heart as she sings through Murphy’s great passion and unspeakable tragedy. This is a star turn that is a rare treat to witness.
Cusack has arresting chemistry with her co-star Patrick Cummings, who is the perfect combination of pure magnetism and vulnerability. You root for this couple from the moment you see them together. A.J. Shively is back in his Drama Desk nominated role of Billy Cane, the young writer just home from the war and is a standout in his touching performance. As his love interest, Maddie Shea Baldwin is dynamic and delivers in her big number Asheville.
The entire cast is stellar including original cast members Jeff Blumenkrantz, hysterical as the editor longing to be a writer and Stephen Lee Anderson who mines the depths of regret as Daddy Murphy. Kaitlyn Davidson’s charisma is saucily on display in the knockout number Another Round.
Shout out to the orchestra led by Anthony De Angelis who brings a foot stompin’ hootenanny to the Ahmanson creating a party no one wanted to leave!
Bright Star continues at the Ahmanson Theatre through November 19.
Tickets are available by calling (213) 972-4400, online at www.CenterTheatreGroup.org or at the Center Theatre Group Box Office located at the Ahmanson Theatre. Tickets range from $30 – $135 (ticket prices are subject to change). The Ahmanson Theatre is located at The Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles, 90012