by Mackenzie Perpich
So let’s start with this: “Way back in the day” (a show pun for those Bright Star fans out there) — and by “way back”, I mean spring of 2016 — I was living in New York City and was very up to date on all the shows that season. I had pretty much seen everything, which I always feel is a feat in and of itself. Bright Star had gotten some attention and people were saying how much they enjoyed this simple, yet truly elegant show. That it was different and you just had to see it for yourself.
I knew nothing about the show when I sat down to watch it. I went by myself, as a strong independent woman does. I also did something I never do, I went back. I saw the show for a second time about a week later. I wanted more. The beautiful story and the gorgeous score were in my head and in my heart. Bright Star was — and still is — something truly beautiful in my world. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t been listening to the soundtrack ever since (which made it only slightly difficult to learn actual show harmonies… too many car jam sessions). Though, most of all, as I sat there watching the show in New York, in all its simplistic beauty, I remember saying to myself, “I have to be in this one day.”
That small little statement became a reality, essentially right down to the ensemble track I had picked out for myself.
I am currently in the midst of performances for Bright Star at Musical Theatre West, in Long Beach, CA. Of course, this feels like some wonderful full circle moment, having fallen in love with this show over two years ago. But on top of all that goodness, we are so lucky to be using the original Broadway sets and costumes, even down to the wigs. It feels as though, in some small way, I get to be part of the Bright Star legacy.
You may ask yourself what pulled on my heartstrings so to speak. Why did this show speak to me so much. This show, I believe, has the power to use the everyday, the simple, and make it extraordinary. I will say, being from the South definitely pushed my love into overdrive on this one. I grew up in Georgia and most of my family is in North Carolina (where the story takes place). There was something about sitting down to watch this show in NYC, a place where I had moved to make my dreams come true, and being dropped right in the middle of all these images that I had left behind. These were real places and, in some ways, real people to me. I remember sitting and thinking this might be the only musical my late Grandpa aka Papa would have loved… because it had a fiddle player walking around the stage. As a man born and raised in South Carolina, later retiring to North Carolina. The landscapes in this story were the ones he grew up with, and the man loved some banjo and fiddle playing. He even got me to a bluegrass concert or two when I was little. This obviously brought a giant smile to my face and made me fall in love with this beautiful show even more.
The production itself speaks to another part of my life that I love very much as well: being part of an ensemble. I’ve always had a deep desire to be part of an ensemble; it’s truly where I am the happiest and most fulfilled. I love being a deep-rooted, integral part of a show, and having the opportunity to create your own stories along the way. Bright Star is a truly ensemble-driven piece. To be honest, I didn’t even realize to what extent the ensemble works in this show just by seeing it. A few statistics from my track, for example: nine costume changes, five wig changes, 17 on-stage songs, and pretty much constant set moves. This is like no ensemble I’ve ever been a part of. I am rarely off stage, I have one real break where I am not changing costumes or wigs, and… I love it! This ensemble never stops, and even when we do, we’re still on stage, watching and listening to each scene.
The staging and choreography, originally by Josh Rhodes and recreated for us by our wonderful Director/Choreographer Richard Gatta, effortlessly incorporate the ensemble throughout the show, and we really feel as though we’re helping drive the story. It’s a great exercise in stamina and focus. There is no just hanging out before the next big ensemble number, you are always doing something, whether it’s pushing the house around, moving a bookcase, or like maybe singing or dancing or whatever.
This show has been a little dream come true for me. Maybe the occasional affirmative statement like “I have to be in this one day!” isn’t a bad idea… Cause you just might get to… in the same dresses, too!