It’s hard not to gush about writing about Steve Martin’s Farmers Alley production and Edie Brickell’s “Bright Star” musical. For live theater fans, it’s on point, and for anyone who hasn’t experienced the magic of a big live show, “Bright Star” won’t disappoint. Every element of this production works. And with Farmers Alley’s intimate setting, you’re close.
The two protagonists, Michelle Duffy and Jeremy Koch, take you on an emotional roller coaster of love, joy and heartbreak. But what stands out is that everyone in the cast, led by these two leads, can really sing. You don’t hear anyone in the cast or ensemble struggling to hit a note. That’s why it was so easy to get lost in the story of this room. Everything went smoothly and naturally.
Duffy’s voice is powerful and amazing. She could easily be a gospel singer but she’s not the only one. Her co-star, Jeremy Koch is the perfect match for her. Jason Koch and Natalie Duncan as younger characters, Billy Cain and Margo Crawford are delightful. Koch is currently a student at U of M while Duncan is a graduate. Some may remember her from her days on the Portage Central stage.
Christopher Harrod is wonderful in a sad and dramatic role as Billy Cain’s father, and D. Neil Bremer as Jimmy Ray’s father is also very emotional.
About Portage Central, its longtime theater department head, Kathy Mulay, is the director of this musical. While some might associate musicals with comedy, and there are some fun moments in this production, there are some heartbreaking ones as well. She manages to get moving performances from the actors and the use of both technology and given space never overshadows the intimate size of this theatre.
“Bright Star is a musical…set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina in 1945-1946 with flashbacks to 1923. The musical is inspired by their Grammy-winning collaboration on the 2013 bluegrass album Love Has Come for You and, turning it, the folk story of the Iron Mountain Baby.” If anyone is only familiar with Martin’s career in TV, film or stand-up, or for that matter, Brickell’s era in pop music, this musical will be one hell of a surprise.
Duffy and Koch’s characters Alice and Jimmy Ray age over two decades in the play as the play moves back and forth through time, and it’s worth noting that the excellent use of makeup makes you forget about jet lag , because it does not. draw attention to himself. It’s also worth noting that it’s no small feat to get authentic period costumes for a show of this scale, as it’s the biggest production Farmers Alley has undertaken in at least five years.