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Theatre / Bright Star

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Love is comin' home

Bright Star is an American musical by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell that premiered on Broadway in 2016. The show follows two plotlines, switching back and forth throughout the first act until they intertwine in the second. The first is set the 1940s and follows Billy Caine, a young soldier from North Carolina who just returned from WW2. He decides to set off to begin his life for real, and travels to Asheville to try and become a writer for the Asheville Southern Journal, leaving behind his childhood friend and possible love interest Margo Crawford. While attempting to get published, Billy meets and strikes up a strange sort of friendship with Alice Murphy, the formidable editor of the Asheville Southern Journal. As we see Billy’s story unfold in the 40s, we are also taken back to Alice’s teenage years in the 1920s. The 1920s flashback portions of the story tell how Alice and the boy she loved, Jimmy Ray Dobbs, became parents at 16 and 18, respectively, and how their son was taken from Alice by Jimmy Ray’s father to be put up for adoption. While on the train to the adoption center, Jimmy Ray’s father is so overcome by his wish for his son to be successful in life that he does the only thing he can think of to make sure that the shame of this child won’t follow his son forever: he climbs onto the platform between the cars, and throws Alice’s baby, in a suitcase, off the train and into the river below. And this is based on a true story. The rest of the show sees these events from the past catching up to the characters in the present.


Has nothing to do with the film of the same name.

Bright Star provides examples of:

  • Bastard Angst: What Jimmy Ray’s father claims his grandson will go through if Alice keeps him.
  • BSoD Song: "I Had a Vision" combines both this and Grief Song.
  • Chick Magnet: In "I Can't Wait", Alice claims that Jimmy Ray is this, and that if their unborn child is like him, he will be too.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: For both Alice in the 1920s and Billy in the 1940s.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Alice is slowly revealed to have had a bit of one in the 1920s plot/flashbacks.
  • Earthy Barefoot Character: Alice in the 1920s.
  • The Eleven O'Clock Number: "At Long Last"
  • Experienced Protagonist: Played with — Even though Alice sings the opening number, it seems like Billy is going to be the protagonist. However, when it is revealed that Alice is indeed the protagonist, the whole 1940s plot has her as this.
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  • Grief Song: Of the parting variety, however "Please, Don't Take Him" is a lot more intense and fast-paced than most grief songs, as Alice's baby is literally ripped from her arms on stage.
  • Happily Adopted: Billy, even though he doesn't know it till the third to last song of the show.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Played with, in that Alice is indeed a redhead, and Jimmy Ray does indeed want her, but she is actually the protagonist.
  • The Ingenue: Both Billy and Margo share different aspects of this character type.
  • Like Father, Like Son: Averted and played straight. Mayor Dobbs attempts to evoke this with Jimmy Ray, saying that Jimmy Ray's gotta do everything that he himself did when he was 18, in order to carry on the family name. Jimmy Ray's whole part in the song "A Man's Gotta Do" is about how the situation is more Like Father, Unlike Son. Later played straight with Billy and Alice, in their writing skills and Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness tendencies, as observed by Jimmy Ray. Also Billy and Jimmy Ray, used for comedic effect with this exchange:
    Jimmy Ray: I'm thinking about taking a trip just to lay eyes on him; I wouldn't know him if I saw him.
    Billy: Hello.
    Jimmy Ray: [turning around and seeing Billy] Omigod.
    Alice: Hello!
    Billy: I'm Billy Caine.
    Jimmy Ray: You are a handsome boy. You take after your father. [steps over to shake his hand] And that would be me.
  • The Male Ingenue Must Be A Tenor: Both Billy and Jimmy Ray are tenors, but Billy is definitely much more of an ingenue than his father.
  • Mysterious Past: Alice Murphy's, at least to her office staff. Made clear when it was revealed they were taking bets on just what it was.
  • Parental Love Song: "I Can't Wait", sung by Alice and Jimmy Ray to their unborn child.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Alice Murphy may be feared by writers for her strict standards as editor of the Asheville Southern Journal, but she isn’t afraid to acknowledge a good writer when she finds one, and even appears to take a bit of joy from helping Billy’s career along.
  • "Setting Off" Song: The title song
  • Sexy Secretary: LUCY
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Margo to Billy. At first it seems like Alice and Jimmy Ray are a subversion of this, but Jimmy Ray's reaction to Alice's pregnancy reveals him to be quite the Nice Guy.
  • Teen Pregnancy: The main conflict of the 1920s plot, and carries into the 1940s plot in act two.
  • Troubled Backstory Flashback: The 1920s plot, right down to the happier times followed by darkness and grief
  • When It All Began: The 1920s plot, kicked off by the song "Way Back in the Day".


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