Kyleigh Herring & Zane Miller in Bright Star. Photo: IUS

Bright Star

Music, lyrics, & book by Steve Martin & Edie Brickell
Directed and choreographed by Tyler Tate

A review by Kate Barry

Entire contents are copyright © 2024 by Kate Barry. All rights reserved.

Journeys make for the best stories. Whether you are leaving or returning from an epic quest, the path is just as important as the destination. Bright Star is the sweetheart of a musical written by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell which made its premiere the same year as Hamilton. It makes me so happy that this folky, dreamy show has made its rounds in the local community theater circuit. Currently playing at Indiana University Southeast, Bright Star fits nicely into a collegiate repertoire as young folks at the start of their journey embrace this modern fable that overflows with heart. 

Set in North Carolina sometime between 1920 and 1940, the simple staging establishes a sense of place with chairs, tables, and other key pieces. The flow between the past and present post-war South creates an appropriate amount of nostalgia. In this story of days gone by, we see two seemingly different narratives; Alice (Kyleigh Herring), a gifted writer with a tragic past, and Billy (Zane Miller), a young man who has just returned home from the war. With vocal direction and choreography, the story can unfold naturally with twists and turns that are evenly played out with the right amount of emotions and timing. At the risk of spoiling major plot twists, the secrets revealed by the end of the show are ever the more satisfying due to the talented cast who embrace the feeling of a small-town community.

Kyleigh Herring’s vocals are longing with vibrato and yearning as Alice. She opens the show with a warm rendition of “If You Knew My Story” and brings you on her journey. Herring does well to show Alice as a strong, unmoving journalist, we see her tender moments with Jimmy Ray (her love interest, played by William Nickles) as she grows up as a black sheep of her family. NIckles and Herring deliver delightful harmonies that illustrate their chemistry in “I Had a Vision” and later in “What Could Be Better.”  Additionally, Nickles provides an apt and superb performance of “Heartbreaker.”  When unexpected events lead to shame, the couple is forced to spend their life apart despite the depth of their love for each other. 

In comparison to Alice and Jimmy Ray’s sad tale, Billy and Margo (played by Cheri Receveur) represent the youthful energy of love in a post-World War Two world. Zane Miller’s Billy is fresh-faced and optimistic as he pursues his writing career, and love and rekindles the quiet home life with his father. Miller does well with the comedic timing with the sometimes more subtle humor within the script.

The ensemble is full of notable performances. Mal and T Russell deliver witty banter as Alice’s employees, armed with one-liners and dance moves to match in the second act number, “Another Round.” Morgan Jessee’s vocals deserved more stage time as Alice’s mother while Aiden Singleton’s turn as Billy’s father was heartfelt and humorous. Taylor Lockhart brings a villainous portrayal of the city mayor. His reprisal of “A Man’s Gotta Do” brings shocking actions that he finely delivers and deserves every audible gasp he receives from the student section off center from the stage.

Bright Star swells and flows with emotions like any other tale. Lovers are separated and reunited, paths are taken, and lessons are learned. By the end of the show, the community is built and families come together for a long-awaited and heartwarming homecoming.

Bright Star

February 23, 24, March 1 & 2 @ 7:00 pm
February 25 & March 3 @ 2:30 pm

IUS Theater Department
The Ogle Center
4201 Grant Line Road
New Albany, IN 47150

Kate Barry has worked with many different companies around town since graduating in 08 from Bellarmine University. She’s worked with CenterStage, Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions. She used to work in the box office at that little performing arts center on Main Street but now she helps save the planet. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. Her play “Catcher Released” won an honorable mention with the Kentucky Playwrights Workshop. She has written for LEO Weekly and as well. When she is not writing, she teaches yoga. Thanks for reading!