Charlie's In The House: Cache Theatre Company's 'Bright Star'

Nov 14, 2019

At the risk of being accused of spawning a terrible pun, the Cache Theatre Company’s ongoing production of the blue-grass musical Bright Star really shines. It’s a feel-good show that works, because the performances are strong enough to make the audience care about its characters.

The musical is a joint composing effort by multi-talented comic Steve Martin and country-folk artist Edie Brickell that enjoyed limited success on Broadway a few years ago. That’s perhaps understandable, because Bright Star is an intimate, sentimental show that could easily be under-appreciated by jaded New York audiences. But the show’s spunk and authenticity are rapidly making Bright Star a favorite with regional theatergoers and this modest production looks and feels right at home on the stage at the Utah Theatre.

There’s no denying, however, that Bright Star is a seedy southern gothic romance with a corny deus ex machina happy ending pasted on. The story is thoroughly predictable; you can spot every plot twist coming a mile away. But who cares? The show’s blue-grass score makes Bright Star the most original-sounding musical since Big River and director Tanner Benson has assembled a cast of performers who can really sell the strength of the production’s vocal numbers.

In the midst of those talented singers, Lindsey Kelstrom stands head and shoulders above her co-stars. Bright Star is Ms. Kelstrom’s show start to finish and she earns every minute of her time in the spotlight. Her performance as the backwoods literary prodigy Alice is thrilling. If you close your eyes during any of Ms. Kelstrom’s powerful vocals, you could easily imagine that you’re listening to Patsy Cline.

Jeffrey Hafslund-Nelson appears as Ms. Kelstrom’s ill-fated love interest. Their flirtatious on-stage chemistry is endearing and their duets are convincingly heartfelt.

Romance also blooms for Daniel Francis and Elisabeth Spencer in Bright Star, who make the most of their second-billing roles by delivering sparkling vocals.

Hillary Peterson and Carson Younker amusingly handle the show’s comedy relief chores. Other outstanding members of the supporting cast included Landon Weeks, Sandi Gillam, Andy Johnson and John Brailsford.

Good as they are, the performers in Bright Star are all literally upstaged by an eight-member blue-grass orchestra led by conductor Jay Richards. The fiddles and banjos of that mostly string ensemble gave Bright Star just the right twangy, down-home vibe to bring the musical’s story to vibrant life.

Performances of Bright Star will continue at the Utah Theatre through Nov. 18th.