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When the downhome country musical “Bright Star” made its debut on Broadway in 2016, it received mixed reviews from New York critics even though it was written and composed by Steve Martin and singer-songwriter Edie Brickell.
Woodside Musical Theatre’s production, which runs through Oct. 23 at the Woodside Performing Arts Center, gets a mixed review as well, despite some top-notch acting and singing performances. Katherine Bonn is excellently cast as the lead (Alice Murphy), and her gorgeous, lilting singing voice is first-rate. As Jimmy Ray Dobbs, Alice’s beau, Jack Bloome could make any young woman’s heart flutter, and his vocals are strong as well. In fact, just about all of the 30-plus cast members are triple-threat performers.
The 10-member orchestra, led by conductor Brett Strader, also does a fine job with the 18 songs in “Star.” And it’s quite a sight to watch the very hardworking stage crew move the unique bandstand across the stage and then affix it to a set piece—which they do dozens of times throughout the show.
But the musical itself is choppy and not always easy to follow, and sometimes the storyline drags.
Though artistic director Gary Stanford Jr. does a superb job of directing this wide-ranging production, he may have spread himself too thin by taking on the role of choreographer as well. Sadly, several of the ensemble dance numbers seem blah and easily forgettable. Watching lines of ladies doing a sashay here and a do-si-do there is less than enthralling.
In addition to the leads, several other actors deserve mention for their fine performances, especially Jason Mooney as the young writer Billy Cane and Rebecca Mayfield as Florence. As Lucy, Allie Cortugno has a strong stage presence and fine singing voice, as do Adrienne Herro as Mama Murphy and Mark Wong as Jimmy.
The one casting misstep is D’Artagnan Rivera as Mayor Josiah Dobbs, who just doesn’t gel in the role. But kudos to ensemble member Joey Montes, who stepped into the role of Daddy Murphy when another actor had a medical emergency.
Technical director Don Coluzzi did double duty as set and lighting designer—a giant undertaking. Many sets flew down from above or in from the sides, only to be whisked away in time for the next scene.
All told, “Bright Star” is worth seeing for its fine voices, knee-stompin’ country music and boundless energy. Its run ends Sunday, Oct. 23. Tickets are $25-$55 at www.woodsidetheatre.com or 650-206-8530.
Cast, crew make ‘Bright Star’ shine at Woodside Musical Theatre
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