FC Theatre Department’s musical production of Bright Star travels audiences to the 1920s and 1940s – The Hornet

Fullerton College’s Bright Star performance shines full of light and life at the Bronwyn Dodson Theatre.

Directed by musical theatre professor Timothy Espinosa, Fullerton’s theatre and music department bring broadway’s bluegrass hit to FC enthralling audiences and selling out tickets.

“I had seen Bright Star long ago, I was inspired by it. I thought it would be a beautiful show to stage in this particular space very minimally. I always wanted the students to experience a musical that dealt with country-western music,” said Espinosa.

FC Theatre Department’s Cast of Bright Star Photo credit: FC Theatre Department & Tim Espinosa

Bright Star tells the tale of Alice Murphy, played by Kumari Small, a young editor that falls in love with Jimmy Ray, played by Jackson Marcy. Their love soon meets a depressing fate when their newborn baby is taken away. The story shifts plotlines in time periods through the ’20s and ’40s discoursed by dance, music and strong performances from the cast.

“It’s one of the most beautiful stories that I’ve ever had the opportunity to bring to life. It’s a lot of vocal work and emotional preparation. It’s a very heavy show,” said musical theatre major Kumari Small.

Musical numbers are performed live with a band above the cast making the experience both a musical and a concert. Fullerton’s cast sang and danced their hearts out synchronizing to the string plucks up above.

“We are working with music trying to accent those beats that the band is so wonderfully playing on stage but also trying to keep that storyline going throughout the whole entire process. It’s not just dancing on that stage, we are trying to tell a story at the same time,” said choreographer Allison Chasteen.

Bright Star

Kumari Small and Jackson Marcy’s characters in Bright Star Photo credit: FC Theatre Department & Tim Espinosa

Sound is a great part of the play that immerses the viewer into the world of Bright Star. Bells are swung by the actors every time they enter the library, sounds of typewriters are typing away in the newsroom scenes and crickets chirp in the bayou.

Special effects, props and costumes are professionally used throughout the experience creating the ambiance for the story taking place on stage. Details in visuals and aesthetic are beyond pristine making the performance art a spectacle to look at.

The only withdrawal from the immersion is the fact that segregation is never mentioned in Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s Bright Star. Being a story taking place in the south during the ’20s and ’40s you’d expect some mention. Bright Star has been criticized for this before for its inaccuracy and casting choice being all white.

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Kumari Small in Bright Star Photo credit: FC Theater Department & Tim Espinosa

Realistic themes that coincide with the history of the decades are missing from Bright Star. Fullerton decided to cast black performers a smart choice that they should be applauded for, though the story is still inaccurate with history since skin color is disregarded completely. A needed and amazing choice but one that conflicts with the story’s time period. The musical is not set in reality but in fiction which can be confusing for some viewers since the musical is a so-called true story. The musical is only based on one true event, the Iron Mountain Baby, which inspired creators of the musical Steve Martin Edie Brickell.

Bright Star creator’s Edie Brickell and Steve Martin’s historical inaccuracy can be distracting and questionable but viewing it as a fictional piece alone can be forgiving.

The performance by FC challenges the original typecast and gives the musical a different face and perspective illuminating the path for Bright Star. Though still confusing at times due to the history, the plot and the true event statement that mixes in a questionable debate.

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