by Tom DeMars
*Stay tuned after reading the review to watch an interview with the co-directors of the show!
If you’ve never been to the STAGE Theatre in Hickman, you’re missing a true gem in the Nebraska theatre community. The quaint venue produces some of the best shows in the area. The current play, Bright Star, is certainly no exception. The music, book, and story were written by Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin, of comedy fame) and Edie Brickell.
In this adaptation, the first in the state of Nebraska, Co-director Robert Wamsley and Co-Director/Choreographer Jennifer Schultz have created a true masterpiece. The choreography is masterful throughout and is utilized in scene changes, where the cast seamlessly dances the pieces on and off the stage in an audience-pleasing fashion without producing any distraction.
The set design is fantastic, with a very creative use of pallets to fashion scenery matching the era and locale. The lighting is warm and inviting, and the costumes are perfect for time period as well. The music for the show is terrific and has a bluegrass feel that had the audience clapping along in rhythm throughout the show.
This is an extremely talented cast, including the ensemble. Everyone handles their role to perfection. The show begins with Billy (Jared Flodman) returning from war to find his mother died while he was gone. Mourning her loss, he seeks to honor her by working to become a writer. He heads to Asheville, South Carolina, leaving his confidante Margo (Claire Wilkinson) secretly pining for him. He heads to the Ashville Southern Journal where he meets the seemingly dour editor-in-chief, Alice Murphy (Amelia Barrett). Charmed with his attempts to get his foot in the door, Alice pays Billy $10 for his story, then tells him to go out and use his talents to write a story of pain and redemption. This actually foreshadows the tale we’ll soon learn about the headstrong young Alice, as the story moves back from the mid ’40s to the early ’20s.
Amelia handles the role of Alice to perfection, showing extreme emotion, strong will, and a tremendous voice. The chemistry between Alice and the mayor’s son, Jimmy Ray Dobbs (Michael J. Corner), is apparent as Jimmy Ray teases Alice before the real passion becomes apparent. Ultimately, this passion leads to a pregnancy. This is seen as a threat to his son’s future by Mayor Josiah Dobbs (Matthew Works). The dire act that ensues has the audience on a truly emotional roller coaster, leading to a surprising end to the show.
This show is really excellent and highly recommended. Head on over to the show one of these days. I promise you, will not be disappointed.
If you go: Remaining shows are daily December 6-8, December 12-15, with additional shows to be added the following weekend, based on demand. Sundays are 2:00 matinees, and the other shows are at 7:30 pm. Tickets are available online and at the STAGE box office, but seats are going fast!
To watch Tom DeMars’ interview with Bright Star’s co-directors, Robert Wamsley and Jennifer Schultz, click here!
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