‘Bright Star’ shines at Riverside Center for the Performing Arts

A powerful and transformative story full of heartbreak and hope.

Riverside Center for the Performing Arts presents the Steve Martin and Edie Brickell Bluegrass musical Bright Star, an invigorating showpiece about hope and renewal, themes that are perfectly timed for the post-pandemic audience. With expert direction from Patrick A’Hearn, Bright Star truly earns its name!

The fully installed set, designed by Frank Foster, had been lying in wait on stage at Riverside Dinner Theatre for well over a year during the pandemic, and the wait has been worth it. The plot unfolds mainly on a massive turntable, which rotates throughout the show, and its use illustrates time changes (the story is told over two decades) in a really enriching way that I hadn’t seen yet on stage. This element, paired with lighting designed by Michael Jarett and projections designed by James Morrison, creates an immersive atmosphere with thrilling effects.

Scene from ‘Bright Star.” Photo courtesy of Riverside Center for the Performing Arts.

Music Director Carson Eubank leads a live Bluegrass band onstage, neatly nestled in its own southern-inspired gazebo. With this region being home to some of the most authentic and ardent Bluegrass fans, the orchestra (which includes the renowned banjoist Mark Barnett) has some high expectations to meet, and I think it’s safe to say that they not only meet them but exceed them!

Not to be outdone, the vocalists deliver some real powerhouse numbers. Adrianne Hick is stunning as Alice Murphy, who introduces herself with the song “If You Knew My Story.” The story, told between the 1920s and ’40s in the American South, proves to be a powerful and transformative one that is full of both heartbreak and hope. Douglass Ullman is charming as Alice’s love interest Jimmy Ray Dobbs, a young man who is often at odds with his father Mayor Josiah Dobbs, played by Alan Hoffman. Hoffman’s performance is (in my opinion) the most memorable, with his song “A Man’s Gotta Do” stunning the audience in more ways than one.

There are some very heavy moments in this production, and with that comes some much-needed levity, which is provided by Daniel Pippert and Sarah Mae Anderson as Daryl and Lucy, employees of the Asheville Southern Journal office, where Alice has become a prominent literary editor. Their number “Another Round” provides a cheerful break, with lively choreography by Stephanie Wood. Danny Martin is Billy Cane, an amateur writer who has set out to seek Alice’s professional attention. The two have a kismet connection, which Alice sings about in the lovely number “So Familiar.” After Alice delves into some deep introspection (and a little detective work), their lives are never the same.

Scene from ‘Bright Star.” Photo courtesy of Riverside Center for the Performing Arts.

Bright Star is an emotional and uplifting journey, but its serendipitous nature is what really makes this story shine—even more so when you realize that it’s based on real events! When true professionals lend their talents to such material, the result is a must-see production!

If you’re looking to get back into musical theater after this dormant period, you’ll find one of the warmest welcomes on stage at Riverside Center for the Performing Arts’ Bright Star!

Running Time: Approximately 3 hours, including one 20-minute intermission.

Bright Star plays through October 31, 2021, at Riverside Center for the Performing Arts—95 Riverside Pkwy., Fredericksburg, VA. For tickets, call the box office at 540-370-4300 or purchase them online.

Regular price tickets are $60–$80. Discounted senior and group rates are available, and show-only rush tickets are available the day of the performance. Evening performances start at 7:30 pm, with dinner service beginning at 5:30 pm on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Wednesday matinee performances start at 1:30 pm, with dinner service beginning at 11:30 am. Sunday matinee performances start at 3:00 pm, with dinner service beginning at 1:00 pm.

SEE ALSO: A ‘Bright Star’ on the horizon for Riverside Center (includes season announcement)


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