Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Broadway Review: Bright Star starring Carmen Cusack & Paul Alexander Nolan

Bright Star
Cort Theatre
Reviewed on Sunday 27th March 2016 (matinee)

Bright Star is a hard show to review because I sat down knowing nothing and think that's how everyone should experience it. The show is written by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, inspired by their 2013 bluegrass album Love Has Come for You.

Without giving too much away, the musical takes us to the American South in two time periods - the 1920s and 1940s. Based on true events, it's a story of love and long-buried secrets which have the power to change lives forever. The story is constructed cleverly; at first I thought the show was very sweet and gentle and I wasn't on the edge of my seat. However, in the second act things spiral into a different direction and by the end of the show I had shed a fair few tears.

The music is a completely different sound for Broadway, but tells the story beautifully. There's a real community spirit about this musical - all the cast feel so connected which is joyful and uplifting. Eugene Lee's design is so simple but effective, allowing Walter Bobbie's production to have style and embrace the art of storytelling. I love that the band perform on an onstage platform which drifts around throughout the performance. The score features both tender and catchy songs - I can't wait for the cast album to be released. 

Carmen Cusack and Paul Alexander Nolan lead the cast triumphantly, both giving knock out performances and showing off such versatility - we meet their characters both as wide eyed teenagers and as adults who have lived life. 

Marking her Broadway debut, Cusack - who played Fantine in Les Mis in London before playing Elphaba on tour in Wicked in the U.S. - gives a career defining performance. Her vocal qualities are so unique; Cusack's performance is playful, vulnerable and feisty all at the same time. She must come back to London at some point! Alexander Nolan has strong stage presence and a stellar voice - he gives a charming performance. 

It's so brilliant to see a show like Bright Star make it to Broadway. The audience response around me was extremely positive, and I really hope it can sustain a healthy run in New York. Well worth a look!

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Bright Star plays at the Cort Theatre (138 West 48th Street).
Please visit www.brightstarmusical.com for further information and tickets.

Photo Credit: Nick Stokes

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