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Review by Vince Mediaa

It has been a summer of terrific Regional Musicals in the greater Bay Area. Kinky Boots, Hunchback and Bright Star have dominated Bay stages - with inventive productions. I do my best to see one or two of the same musicals. BRIGHT STAR had four productions this past spring and summer. I wanted to touch base with the new TMC Arts company based in Castro Valley Ca. Their production of BRIGHT STAR won me over with a talented cast and solid craft team. Under the Direction of Brian Olkowski, and Founder Artistic Director Dayna Speed they cast a superb company of 29. The company brought the heart to this Steve Martin and Edie Brickell musical. BRIGHT STAR closed August 28th yet I wanted to acknowledge this company.

This is Speed's inaugural musical she has produced for TMC Arts and says “TMC Arts was born with this musical. I have recently found myself surrounded by talented professionals with a true passion for bringing the best version of this work to the stage. I have deep gratitude to the cast, crew, musicians & creative team. A couple of things I’ve learned about producing a musical - If you are going to produce a first musical, pick Bright Star, it’s the best one”.

BRIGHT STAR shines with a powerhouse local cast that tells this story of family and redemption. I have a few BRIGHT STAR reviews posted - so this review will not feature much about the story. The musical features 20 original songs with mixes of Americana Classic, touches of Rock, Folk, and Bluegrass. The nine member on stage band under the direction of Delphean Quan features the gifted Micheal Bang on Banjo, Miles Quale on Fiddle and Brandon Ung, Aaron Bull, Keona Koh, Victor Serda, Ryan Friedman and Scot Moore fill out the knee taping sound of Brickell’s score. Steve Martin brings the banner song “Bright Star” to a hoedown party. Quans’ nine member band is one of the highlights of this production.

The charismatic Tommy Lassiter plays Billy Cane, a young soldier home from World War II, meets Alice Murphy, editor of a Southern literary journal played by the brilliant local favorite Rachel Powers. Together they discover a powerful secret that alters their lives. The tuneful and handsome Lassiter plays the young writer with a sweet warm energy. He opens the story with the title banner song ”Bright Star”. Lassilier is perfect with Powers and their onstage battle for wit and writing skills is tense. Lassilier sings “She’s Gone” when he learns his mom has died and proves his keen voice alongside the splendid Sean O Brien as his dad, Mr Cane.

Director Olkowski stages this hand clapping musical with enduring love, creating family ties that leads to forgiveness like a bright star. The story jumps back and forth between two eras and two families who may have a mysterious bond between them. Sam Fehr lighting design helps to define between the 1920’s and 1940’s. The two and a half hour musical opens with “If You Knew My Story” featuring the stunning Powers with her pitch perfect voice, and the cast with their stunning vocals and country steps. Choreographer Tori Speed brings a new look to some of the dances I have seen for this musical it was refreshing. The cast is infectious with hoedown magic under Speed’s clever dance numbers.

The musical gets strong performances from a seasoned cast which includes local favorite Robert Lopez as Jimmy Dobbs who is paired perfectly with his love for Alice. Powers and Lopez sing “Whoa Mama” and the lovely “I Had a Vision '' that will bring you to tears. O’Brian as Daddy Cane, and the dynamic Kevin Foley as Daddy Murphy both sing the dramatic “Please Don’t Take Him”. The villain Mayor Dobbs is played by the authentic Elmer Strasser who sings the blues song “A Man's Gotta Do” with a deep darkness that closes the first act.

The feel good brillant choreographer Victoria Speed also plays one of the featured cast receptionist Margo Crawford who shows a lot of charm towards Billy. The frisky camp Ivann Gelico plays Alice’s dandy amusing assistant Daryl who keeps the story entertaining. The passionate Lisa Saaz as Mama Murphy, sings the act two opening number “Sun’s Gonna Shine” along with the ensemble that includes; Lisa Appleyard, Nikki Bonato, Dori Campbell. Charlotte Carpenter, Max O. Chang, Michelle Freschi, Eleonora Layne, Carole MacKenzie, Scythe Martin, and Demi Starzak and as Max the impressive Alexander Kolm. Arri Toshiko, Glenn Daryl Ames, Aiyanna Espinoza-Carter, Makena Mueller, Alexander Kolm, Sean Cooper, Tyce Fields,Terri McDowell, Britt Jensky, Len Shaffer, Kaylee Lopez fill out the additional roles.

Faith Hudson’s props included the important travel bag and the Mayor’s busy liquor collection. The set by Charles Rotenberry is simple on wheels that easily move on and off the stage by the cast. A shout out to assistant Director Tommy Lassiter and assistant stage manager AJ Amstrup. The important stage crew includes Caydence Johnson, Enzo Castilho, Maxwell Deene, Megan Sullivan, and Dominic Pairis. The second act includes a rousing center stage solo with the nine member band and brought the sold out closing performance audience to cheers. The time frames of events knit together as the past and present bring this tale to its warm teary close. BRIGHT STAR is a show that smiles with flair, comedy, dance mixed with some audience clapping and tapping, and a good old fashioned country love. Congratulations to the new TMC Arts Company - I hope to see more productions and the friends of TRI VALLEY Rep who supported this impressive production - Welcome TMC Arts.

TMC Arts and The Castro Valley Arts Foundation Presents

Bright Star A Musical

Book, Music, and Story By Steve Martin

Lyrics, Music, and Story by Edie Brickell

Directed by Brian Olkowski,

Producer Artistic Director Dayna Speed,

Music Director Delphean,

Choreographer Victoria Speed,

Vocal Director Jed da Roza

Closed August 27th

Castro Valley Center for the Arts

Redwood Rd Castro Valley

Running Time two hours thirty minutes

Photo’s by TMC Arts


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