MTW ‘Bright Star’ to shine over holiday season

Jeffery Hafslund-Nelson and Lindsey Kelstrom will lead a mostly familiar cast of performers in a concert version of the bluegrass musical "Bright Star" at the Ellen Eccles Theatre in downtown Logan on Dec. 4 and 5.

LOGAN – The crusade by Music Theatre West to keep Cache Valley’s performing arts scene alive in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic will continue Dec. 4 and 5 with a concert production of the bluegrass musical “Bright Star” at the Ellen Eccles Theatre.

That concert will be part of a new round of holiday-oriented productions in the Random Acts Community Performance Series slated between Dec. 2 and 23.

The concert version of “Bright Star” is the local theater troupe’s solution to performing while following statewide social distancing guidelines, according to MTW managing director Celeste Baillio.

“This 80-minute concert version of ‘Bright Star’ is intended to be played to socially separated audiences by a cast of socially separated actors,” Ms. Baillio explains. “The audience will still get the full story of the original musical, acted by performers in costumes and hear all the beautiful music played by our bluegrass band.”

“Bright Star” is a joint composing effort by multi-talented comic Steve Martin and country-folk artist Edie Brickell that enjoyed limited success on Broadway a few years ago. But the show’s blue-grass score made “Bright Star” the most original-sounding musical since ”Big River” and the show’s down-home authenticity created a huge following among regional theatergoers.

The MTW production is being eagerly anticipated by local theater-lovers for a couple of reasons.

First, a concert featuring stand-out vocal performances from previous MTW productions was the highlight of the initial round of Random Acts shows at the Eccles Theatre this past summer.

Secondly, the upcoming concert will bring together again nearly the entire cast of a marvelous production of “Bright Star” staged by the Cache Theatre Company in fall of 2019.

Performers reprising their roles from the CTC production include Lindsey Kelstrom as the leading lady Alice Murphy, Jeffery Hafslund-Nelson as Jimmy Ray Dobbs, Daniel Francis as Billy Cane, Andy Johnson as Mayor Dobbs, Landon Weeks as Daddy Cane, Elisabeth Spencer as Margo Crawford, John Brailsford as Papa Murphy, Hillary Peterson as Lucy and Carson Younker as Daryl.

Also reprising their roles in the ensemble of “Bright Star” will be Amy Nisbet, Jared Fillingim, Jared Gregersen, Kate Neeley, Maren Wendel and Melina McNees.

The only newcomers to the cast will be Judy Ludlow as Mama Murphy and Alex Lambert, Chrissy Webster and Rachel Fillingim joining the show’s ensemble.

All of the Random Acts performances from Dec. 2 through 23 are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m., with ticket prices ranging from $7 to $12.

CacheARTS director Wendi Hassan says that the Random Acts performances will fully comply with current state guidelines for organized public gatherings.

“We’re requiring masks, screening temperatures, spacing households six-feet apart, providing hand sanitizer, cleaning high-touch surfaces and disinfecting the air,” she adds.

This second round of events in the Random Acts Community Performance Series, Hassan explains, is being subsidized by grants from the “Create in Utah” program are provided through the federal CARES Act by the Utah Legislature and administered by the Utah Division of Arts & Museums.

That funding is intended to help Utahns return to enjoying a high quality of life by providing access to culturally enriching events in the midst of the ongoing pandemic.

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