A bright opening weekend for Hope College Theatre

Set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, the musical “Bright Star” weaves a beautiful story about love, grief, and hope in the 1920s and 1940s. Hope’s production, which opened last weekend, is directed by Daina Robins with music direction by Sarah VandenBrink and choreography by M. Linda Graham. Bright Star’s powerful cast of characters draws in their audience with lively and heart-wrenching songs, pushing their viewers to dance along in one moment and bringing tears to their eyes in the next. The show is brought to life with a large group of about 30 actors and a live bluegrass band (directed by Christopher Fashun) as accompaniment. The set of “Bright Star” is all-encompassing with no detail left untouched—from the mandolin and Bell Jars on the shelves to the rolling barn doors—even the band is dressed in true southern fashion to match. 

The musical, inspired by a true story, follows the life of Alice Murphy (played by Cameron Baron) as an accomplished literary editor in Asheville, North Carolina. It spans the years 1945 and 1946 and flashes back to tell her story as a young woman in a small rural town outside of Asheville in 1923. Young Alice Murphy’s story shows an intelligent, stubborn woman growing out of her hometown while also falling in love with a man named Jimmy Ray (Played by Blade Gates), the son of her town’s mayor. Murphy reflects back on these days throughout the course of the musical, allowing the audience to witness how the timelines converge.

Blade Gates and Cameron Baron, respectively, in their roles as Jimmy Ray and Alice Murphy (photo by Leslie Olivarez).

The life of young, ambitious WWII veteran Billy Cane (played by Grant McKenzie) is woven in as he seeks to be published in the “Asheville Southern Journal,” the magazine edited by Murphy. He moves to the big city to chase his dreams as a writer, all the while navigating changing relationships with his love interest and old friend Margo (played by Chloe Roberts). The Journal’s two staff members, Daryl and Lucy (played by Zachary Pickle and Elayna Sitzman), and their comedic chemistry keep the audience smiling while they ponder the deeper themes presented by writers Steve Martin and Edie Brickell.

Grant McKenzie playing veteran Billy Cane (photo by Leslie Olivarez).

“Bright Star” had a successful opening night this past weekend, and continues on April 28, 29, and 30 in Dewitt Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for Hope College students and children under 18 are free, $10 for adults, and $7 for seniors and Hope faculty and staff. Please note that masks are required for this event.

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