Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, creators of the musical “Bright Star,” joined an audience punctuated with stars for the Los Angeles premiere of their five-time Tony Award-nominated show on Oct. 20 at the Ahmanson Theatre.
There, too, were Paul Simon, Brickell’s husband of 25 years, as well as Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Aubrey Anderson-Emmons (“Modern Family”), Eric McCormack (“Will & Grace”), Barrett Foa (“NCIS: Los Angeles”), Kate Linder (“The Young and the Restless”), Sharon Lawrence (“NYPD Blue”), Joshua Malina (“Scandal”), Lea Thompson (“Caroline in the City”), Suzanne Cryer (“Silicon Valley”), Mark Feuerstein (“Royal Pains”), Loretta Devine (“The Carmichael Show”) and many others.
Just before attendees began filing in to the theater, the Grammy- and Emmy-winning Martin and the Grammy-winning Brickell took a few moments for a private chat with the Los Angeles Times about their five-time Tony Award-nominated musical, which started as a song. (In addition to scoring a 2016 Tony nomination for best musical, the show received nominations for best original score, best book of a musical, best orchestrations and best lead actress in a musical.)
Turns out Brickell was inspired by a story she read about an unwanted baby who was packed up in a suitcase and tossed from a train before being raised by the family who discovered him. That song was featured on “Love Has Come for You,” the duo’s first album together. “Bright Star” then built a story around the incident.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Brickell of the 1904 article. “I thought it was a beautiful miracle that the baby was found, but so gritty and strange and ugly that it would make a beautiful song.”
Added the multi-talented Martin, “What’s interesting is that the song is not in the show anymore because the song tells the story, the entire story. Yet we had it in the show for a long time.”
“What really interested me was the reaction of the woman when her husband brings this baby into their home,” Brickell added. “What a loving human being and what a big surprise. I love that she wouldn’t give him away when people tried to claim him. I just liked her immediately.”
The show, set in the 1920s and 1940s American South, then embellishes the tale, adding new fictitious characters. And although the score has been described as bluegrass, Martin said, “Edie has made the point — and it’s completely valid — that it’s not really bluegrass. We use the instrumentation of bluegrass but then we expand it with other instruments.”
Later, after curtain calls as guests converged on nearby Kendall’s Restaurant for the after party, Foa said he had seen the show on Broadway, “and what is it now? A year later, and it’s still as alive as it was then.” He went on to praise lead actress Carmen Cusack’s “well-crafted performance” as well as the score (“the sounds, the images really work with the time period”) and the story (“You really buy the love scene, which is hard to do in a musical”).
Said Lawrence, “I have waited a long time to see this show, not only because I’m a native North Carolinian and from those areas they talk about in the play … but also because Carmen’s work is so special. … She’s such a versatile actress with such a versatile voice. That gal can do anything.”
“Bright Star” continues through Nov. 19. For tickets, which range from $35 to $135, and additional information, click here or call (213) 972-4400.