Wish upon a star

The ensemble of ‘Bright Star,’ the new musical from the Walnut Grove High School drama class, rehearses a number during class. The Broadway show, written by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, is a bluegrass-infused drama set in both the 1920s and 1940s based on local folklore of the American South.

The typical sound of a Broadway show is brassy and bold, filled with full orchestras producing sweeping melodies for singing and dancing.

Or, as “The Music Man” describes it, “Seventy-six trombones led the big parade, with 110 cornets right behind.”

The new musical at Walnut Grove High School, however, has a much different sound, one of plucked strings and regional memories, all provided by the Walnut Grove band on instruments different than usually seen at such a show.

“It’s a lot of bluegrass, some country, a lot of Americana,” drama teacher and director Sunny Vidrine said. “We have real banjos, mandolins and more playing for us this time around.”

It all makes for a much different sound for their newest spring musical, “Bright Star,” written by comedian Steve Martin and musician Edie Brickell based on folklore from the American South in the era of the Great Depression.

“We saw it performed at the International Thespian Festival last summer,” Vidrine said. “The kids fell in love with it. I fell in love with it. And we knew what we wanted to do next.”

Putting on a show like “Bright Star,” however, meant tackling different problems than usual, even after addressing the different band personnel needed.

“It’s tough,” Vidrine said. “It’s a lot of fun but it’s one of our tougher rehearsal processes. It’s very ensemble heavy, so we have to rely on everyone hitting their notes and cues in every scene. We can’t just rely on a few stars to muscle through. There’s a bit of a challenge there.”

The music itself, too, is more technically demanding than some of their recent musicals.

“The singing is very difficult at times,” Vidrine said. “But I knew I had the voices to make it happen and the kids have really risen to the occasion. It’s been a lot of fun.”

The student actors said they’ve enjoyed preparing the show, even as they work around large props and sets, including an entire house mounted on wheels to make getting it on and off stage simpler.

“Working around these big set pieces can be difficult at times,” senior Olivia Swope said. “But I think this show is amazing. I love the story in this one.”

The thespians said the show was, while fun and amusing at times, more serious than their usual musical comedies, which made for a different approach to the material.

“It’s completely different than anything we’ve ever done,” senior Christina Hageman said. “It’s very bluegrass.”

Brett Terrell, a senior who’s been in almost all of the spring musicals at WGHS, said the ensemble-heavy approach to the show made it a hit with the students.

“Everyone gets a chance to be singing in almost every song,” he said. “It’s going great.”

Senior McKayla Johnson agreed.

“It’s got a little bit of everything,” she said. “It’s hard sometimes. I have to play a younger and older version of my character, between the 1920s and 1940s, so there are a lot of quick changes. But it’s great. Just, bring some tissues.”

“Bright Star” will debut in the Walnut Grove High School auditorium at 7 p.m. Thursday, with two more showings at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and an additional matinee at 2 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $10 at the door.

News Editor

Stephen Milligan is the news editor of The Walton Tribune. He lives in Monroe and is a graduate of the University of Georgia.

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