Review: ‘Bright Star’ shines at Hale Centre Theatre

The cast of "Bright Star" at Hale Center Theatre. Photo Courtesy: HCT

SANDY, Utah, Feb. 4, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — Feel like planning an imaginative date night this Valentine’s Day?

How about seeing a musical simply bursting with heart, which will transport you to a time when things were sweeter and more simple?

Hale Centre Theatre is presenting the regional company premiere of “Bright Star” through May 2 at the Mountain American Performing Arts Centre’s Sorenson Legacy Jewel Box Stage in Sandy.

The production features live musicians on stage playing Grammy-, Emmy- and Oscar-winner Steve Martin, and Grammy-winner Edie Brickell’s rich score. The music is absolutely gorgeous and atmospheric, and really helps to crack open your heart.

Inspired by actual events, “Bright Star” tells a sweeping tale of love and redemption set against the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. A southern country girl turned buttoned-up newspaper editor, Alice Murphy, narrates her own story in two time periods: 1944 with flashbacks to 1923.

Leading the cast as Alice Murphy is Donna Louden, who recently toured the country as the understudy for Carmen Cusack, who originated the role on Broadway and was nominated for a Tony as a result. Louden is truly charming in the role; her singing voice is velvety, with a huge emotional range. She transitions easily between Alice as a young girl; sparkly, careless, and full of joy, and the adult Alice, who has almost locked her personality away and is weighed down by a heartbreaking secret.

Louden also is quite different from Cusack in the role; more delicate, somehow, like a flower that is crushed and broken by the turn of events. I would rush back to the show to see Louden’s performance alone.

Darick Pead is also single cast as Jimmy Ray Dobbs, the young Alice’s love interest. Pead is an HCT veteran who has also toured the country in productions of “Falsettos,” “Into the Woods,” and “Beauty and the Beast.” Both his and Louden’s experience shows; Pead also has a rich singing voice, lots of charm and the ability to portray the emotional arc that’s necessary for his character.

The cast also features Dallin Suman and Carter Walker double cast as Billy Cane, a serviceman and aspiring writer who crosses paths with Alice when he submits his stories to the The Asheville Southern Journal, where she is the editor. I saw the THS cast, thus I saw Suman in the role. It’s Suman’s first show at Hale, and I feel sure he’ll be in plenty in the future. He has an easy, youthful energy on stage and plenty of range.

The supporting cast is also very strong. The night I attended, Morgan Western played Margo Crawford, who is Cane’s love interest; just like Suman, she has a sweet innocence with a just the right amount of fire. I also enjoyed the duo that provide most of the comic relief of the show; newspaper employees Daryl Ames and Lucy Grant, played by Daniel Anderson and Camille Evans. These two get to have a lot of fun on stage and work very well together.

The ensemble is also strong, with the dance numbers particular standouts.

The show is directed and choreographed with panache by Dave Tinney. He manages to transition seamlessly between the different genres that the play encompasses: it’s a musical and a comedy but there’s also an intensely dramatic story line that could descend into melodrama in the hands of a less experienced director. As it is, Tinney hits just the right notes, and the end of the show is likely to have you shedding a tear or two.

The set design Jenn Stapley Taylor is intricate but not distracting, with stairs and a balcony that wraps round the stage, with large slatted doors at the back through which light can be projected, with great dramatic effect; the lighting design is by Marianne Ohran. There are also projections, but if you are sitting either to the far left, or right, like I was, they are not visible. It didn’t really distract from the whole experience for me; there was still plenty to look at. The costume design by Peggy Willis is also appropriate to the period and location, as is hair and makeup design by Krissa Lent.

The Hale will present approximately 110 consecutive performances of “Bright Star” through May 2. Performance times are 7:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday with some weekday matinees at 4 p.m., and Saturday matinees at 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. No children under age 5 are permitted in the theater. Ticket prices are $38-$52 for adults and $19-$26 for youth ages five through 17.

For ticket information call 801-984-9000, go to, or visit the box office at 9900 S. Monroe Street in Sandy City.



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