Steve Martin Plays Banjo for Bright Star's Opening Night

The sweet twang of bluegrass is just the right sound for the sweet happy ending of "Bright Star," a musical based on a newspaper item found by Edie Brickell describing a miracle. Working with Steve Martin, a not so wild and crazy guy in his current incarnation as Americana icon, the two have composed country songs for a band that plays from inside an A-frame house. Pushed along Broadway's Cort Theater stage as scenes change, the house is home to a family near Asheville, North Carolina, when son Billy Cane (A. J. Shively)) comes back from the war, and wants to be a writer. This post-war moment flashes back twenty-three years, to a spirited girl named Alice Murphy, with a story to tell.

In her Broadway debut, Carmen Cusack plays Alice with veteran flair. During the opening night intermission, as everyone marveled at this newcomer, Edie Brickell said Carmen could sing in any genre, not just country. Paul Simon (her husband) said he had to fight to keep one of the best songs, "Asheville," in, because Edie had grown tired of it. Brickell was having the time of her life, imagining more songs she could write for her characters. Her arms entwined with those of their daughter Lulu, just in from London where she is studying, Edie Brickell said she'd write another show in a heartbeat: "I see other talents blossom, and make me look better. I'll take it."

Alice's beau for better or for worse as this tale goes is Jimmy Ray Dobbs, the mayor's son. Paul Alexander Nolan, last seen in Dr. Zhivago, brings a sexy vibe to his scenes with Cusack, but gives in to arguments with his overbearing dad (a fine Stephen Bogardus). Working at the Asheville Southern Journal, where Tennessee Williams and Eudora Welty would be lucky to get their work read let alone published, Jeff Blumenkranz is goofy as Daryl Ames, while Emily Padgett as Lucy Grant is a splendid high kicking hussy. She was great in Sideshow, and simply show-stopping here.

Barry Levinson, Joel Grey, Andrea Martin, Bebe Neuwirth, Aidan Quinn, Jefferson Mays, Jo and Steve Buscemi, Eric Fishl and April Gornik were just some of the guests for opening night, which also featured both Edie Brickell and Steve Martin performing on stage with their cast. Edie's impromptu duet of "At Long Last" with Carmen was especially warm. At the Gotham after party later on, we were all hoping Steve Martin would bring his banjo to the stage. He came on, announced that there would be a special guest, did a U-turn, and play he did.

A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.