“‘Bright Star’ deals with the very long-term ramifications of one decision,” said director/choreographer Megan Wean Sears and music director David Brush in a joint statement. “But the pain and sorrow that figures heavily into (the) story is met with the promise of a miracle. In good and bad times alike, we are a people of faith – and sometimes faith is tested, worn and tattered. But faith prevails. (This) show reminds us of the strength we find in ourselves, in each other and in our roots.”
The toe-tapping, folk and gospel-tinged score includes “If You Knew My Story,” “What Could Be Better,” “Asheville,” “Sun’s Gonna Shine,” the title number, and the stirring anthem “At Long Last.”
“It is appropriate ‘Bright Star’ is steeped in the deep tradition of American Appalachia – gospel and bluegrass – music that reminds us where we came from and where we are going,” added Sears and Brush. “The music is beautiful.”
In a typical summer, Epiphany would cast upward of 70 performers including small children. But in a break from tradition to allow for smoother transition into live performance post-pandemic, Sears chose not to double-cast, opting for a production featuring no more than 25 actors. In addition to Russ, principal players include Tommy Cole as Billy Cane, Nick Bradley as Jimmy Ray Dobbs, Riley Francis as Margo Crawford, John Benjamin as Daddy Cane, Charlotte Kunesh as Young Alice Murphy, Nick Abouzeid as Young Jimmy Ray Dobbs, Christian Schaefer as Mayor Josiah Dobbs, Desmond Kingston as Daryl Ames, Kath Meyer as Lucy Grant, Brett Greenwood as Daddy Murphy, and Jessica Pettit as Mama Murphy.
“Everybody is on stage the entire time,” said Sears, stressing the show’s theme of community. “(Basically) no one leaves the stage. I want this show to feel like the audience is being invited into this home with this family.”
This year, Epiphany’s drama ministry is celebrating 30 years and 30 summer musicals. Kay Frances Wean, Epiphany’s longtime director posthumously inducted into the Dayton Theatre Hall of Fame in 2013, built a family core within the ministry which remains strong to this very day.
“It means a lot to me to be able to do this show with this group of people because they truly are a second family to me,” echoed Russ, whose Epiphany credits include Martha in “The Secret Garden” and featured soloist in “Why We Tell the Story.” “I have grown up doing theater with some of these people since I was 7 years old. So, to be able to return to theater with them after so long apart and to be telling this story in particular just means the world to me.”
“‘Bright Star’ is about a God who puts people in our lives at exactly the time when we need them – and often just when we think all is lost,” added Sears and Brush. “Come up on the porch. We’ve been expecting you. We’ve got a good story to tell.”
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How to go:
What: “Bright Star”
Where: Epiphany Lutheran Church, 6430 Far Hills Avenue, Centerville
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Friday; 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; and 2:30 p.m. Sunday
Cost: Reserved seating is $15
Tickets: Visit epiphanydayton.org/summer-musical
For more information: Call 937-433-1449 ext. 103 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.