Every other year the Northwestern theater and music departments have the incredible opportunity to join forces to produce a musical. In 2018, the departments collaborated to produce “Next to Normal” directed by Dr. Bob Hubbard, and this month they will premiere “Bright Star” directed by Jeff Barker on the stage of the Proscenium Theatre.
Compared to many of the shows Broadway is producing right now, the musical is a breath of fresh air with its bluegrass sound and narrative based on incredible true experiences. Written by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, the story is set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina in 1945-1946 but contains flashbacks to the year 1923 and follows the journey of witty heroine Alice Murphy who is played in NW’s production by Karisa Meier.
This musical has been an amazing opportunity for music and theater students to collaborate in ways they don’t usually have the opportunity to given that participating in either department often comes with an extremely tight schedule.
“It’s very rare that the music students get to participate in theater and theater students get to participate in music, so I think [this production] is wonderful,” said Grace Spencer who plays the spunky Lucy.
“It’s a wonderful camaraderie of artists,” Barker said.
While many of the cast have been doing music and theater together for years, like Spencer, there are others for whom “Bright Star” is an opportunity to get back into the music or theater scenes they’ve enjoyed in the past.
This is the case for both male leads: Liam Swart and Kitrick Fynaardt. Swart hasn’t been a part of a NW theatrical production before “Bright Star” aside from some small work in the opera last year, but he used to act in elementary school and is very excited about his opportunity to be on stage again.
As for Fynaardt, he took choir for four years in high school, but in college, he has heavily leaned into theater.
“It is an absolute blessing to work with Northwestern’s vocal coach and flex the singing muscles I have recently only used for chapel and blasting music in the car” said Fynaardt. “It is an honor to get to use both my acting and my singing gifts in glory to God.”
Aside from seeing this amazing collaboration, there are many reasons to get tickets to “Bright Star” this month.
Libby Ven Huizen who plays Margot said, “The music is so diverse and versatile, and it’s so fun to perform. I think that people who hear it will really enjoy it and that it really compliments the storyline.”
“Bright Star” is an incredibly touching story that, like this past fall’s production of the “Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime,” is likely to move many in the audience to tears of joy and sorrow alike.
“Every emotion felt onstage has been felt, in some small way, by every member of the audience: joy, love, disappointment, angst, heartbreak,” said Fynaardt. “These are human emotions, and this is a very human show.”
Barker said that he in particular was drawn to the story of “Bright Star” because of how much he loves narratives about “finding lost things.”
“Those are gospel stories about us being lost and God sending his son to find us,” said Barker. “Bright Star gives us hope that the lost will one day be found.”
To see this sweeping tale of love, loss and restoration go to nwciowa.edu/tickets to reserve tickets which are free for NW students and staff. Dates and times for the productions of “Bright Star” are Feb. 15 and 20-22 at 7:30 p.m. and February 15 and 22 at 2:00 p.m.