Published March 16, 2019 | By Adrienne Proctor
Bluegrass is the classically American music, and it finds its home in musical storytelling with Lyric Theatre’s Bright Star. Written by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, Bright Star is a southern story of hope and growing up in North Carolina. Based in the 1920s and the 40s, Bright Star follows Alice Murphy through life in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The musical was inspired by the 2013 bluegrass album Love Has Come for You, which earned a Grammy Award for Martin and Brickell.
According to Lyric Theatre’s Producing Artistic Director Michael Baron, “Steve Martin’s wit and heart are evident in the wonderful script for Bright Star. When musical theatre really works, the audience is brought to a place where they can have empathy for the characters on stage, and feel along with them the hardships and triumphs that life gives us each day. I feel Bright Star is that kind of show – one that stays with you and that you will remember for a lifetime.”
New York City based artist Bligh Voth stars as Alice. Voth was recently seen in Lyric’s 2013 Summer at the Civic production of Big River. She recently answered a few of our questions about the upcoming production. Her responses are below.
AP: Tell us about your character! What do you love about her? What are you looking forward to about playing her?
Voth: Alice is ahead of her time. She’s ambitious and strong-willed and laser focused on what she wants- be it a boy or to get out of her small North Carolina town. What’s not to love about that? I’ve been known to be a bit aggressive myself, so Alice and I are cut from the same cloth in that respect! No matter how perfect or flawed a character may be, it’s my job to find what I love about her. And with Alice, it’s so easy. I love her because of her heart, because of her unwavering belief, her ability to forgive. I love and gravitate towards unrefined people because real grit like that intrigues me. I like a bit of mess. We all have some, and Alice airs hers. She makes no apologies for the woman she is and the choices she’s made.
AP: What’s exciting about coming back to Oklahoma City to play this role on the Lyric Theatre stage?
Voth: Listen- if you thought Big River (written by genius Roger Miller) was the quintessential bluegrass/country musical, well, Bright Star might actually have it beat! I couldn’t have loved being here for Big River more. That show was so special to me. But this feels like a true gift from Michael Baron, and I cannot WAIT to see how people react to this band, and this cast of voices, and this MUSIC. You aren’t going to hear better live bluegrass anywhere else this spring in Oklahoma City, I will bet that!
AP: How do you think the bluegrass and banjo music will resonate with audiences and relate to the show?
Voth: Bluegrass music is root music. What I mean by that is it can come across as quaint but the musicianship required to play bluegrass and to sing bluegrass is incredibly technical. Because of that, it appeals to the music intellectuals and the passionate fans. And with the Banjo Museum here in OKC, we are getting to play with some of the most fantastic musicians. The audience is not ready for what’s coming! I cannot wait for the response! There is such a music appreciation here in Oklahoma City, and I think people are going to be blown away by our story.
As Voth mentioned, Lyric Theatre is partnering with the American Banjo Museum in Bricktown to present Bright Star. Johnny Baier, executive director of the museum, says “The American Banjo Museum is thrilled to see Lyric Theatre bring Bright Star to Oklahoma. Aside from the great story and powerful music by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, we love to see the banjo featured so prominently. After being inducted into our Hall of Fame in 2015, Steve Martin has been a champion for not only the banjo, but our museum as well. Although beloved as an actor and comedian, he is, without a doubt, one of the most influential banjo players of our generation.”
Bright Star also includes Vince Leseney as Daddy Murphy, Stephen Hilton as Daddy Cane, Jonathan Beck Reed as Mayor Dobbs, and Lexi Windsor as Lucy Grant. Michael Isaac is Jimmy Ray Dobbs, Zak Reynolds is Daryl Ames, Patty Irwin is Margo Crawford, Jessica Tate is Mama Murphy, and Ken Singleton is Billy Cane. The ensemble includes Joseph Campbell, Marcus Canada, Jessica Martens, Carly Ann Moore, Janna Linae Schmid and Adam LaPorte.
Music direction is by Brian Hamilton. Choreography is by Lyric’s Associate Artistic Director Ashley Wells. Shawn Irish serves as the set and lighting designer. Costumes are by Lyric’s Resident Costume Designer Jeffrey Meek. Sound design is by Kevin Alexander.