The Spring Musical is Bright Star!

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Ellie Culin

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MHS actors Alex Mroczko, Clara Smith, and Jaron Cole

MHS actors Alex Mroczko, Clara Smith, and Jaron Cole

Madison High School’s 2019 spring musical will be Bright Star, written and composed by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell. Blake Spence, who has previously directed MHS’ production of Footloose last year, will be returning for this year’s spring musical.

 

Bright Star, which opened on Broadway in 2015, is set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Interestingly, the plot for this musical is set in 1945, but it has flashbacks to 1923. Bright Star is the story of Alice Murphy at two different points in her life: the first, as a young and carefree girl hopelessly in love with Jimmy Ray, the mayor’s son. Twenty-two years later, she is the successful editor of The Asheville Southern Journal. Murphy meets an idealistic young writer named Billy, with whom she shares a mysterious connection.

 

Madison High School students hoping to audition for Bright Star can expect over ten lead and supporting characters, as well as many ensemble roles. There are over twenty songs listed on the track for the Broadway version of Bright Star, but it is unknown if some songs will be cut for MHS’ production. Auditions are expected to begin in November.

 

Madison Dodger Online (MDO) spoke to several students involved in the musical. MHS Senior Jaron Cole is excited about the musical, saying that he is “excited for the show because it is unlike anything [he’s] ever done before,” and as it is “very different from what most schools will be doing,” the musical will be a welcome challenge. MDO also interviewed senior Alex Mroczko, who agrees with Cole. Mroczko adds that “Bright Star is going to be very similar and different from shows we’ve done in the past. It’s a very ‘Southern’ theme, and it’s modern.” Mroczko and Cole are both heavily involved in Madison High School’s theater program; Cole starred in Madison High School’s 2018 spring musical Footloose as lead Red McCormack. Mrozcko has played lead roles in the past as well, most notably Rusty in Footloose and Ado Annie in Oklahoma!

 

There is some controversy over the musical in regards to its small pit orchestration. The pit orchestra is a live band that plays the soundtrack below or sometimes on stage. It is expected that Russ Batsch, Madison High School’s band director, will be the conductor for Bright Star’s orchestra. Interestingly, Madison High School has a tradition of not hiring professional musicians to play the score for musicals; Batsch gives MHS students the opportunity to play in a pit orchestra setting, a rare opportunity for those not intending to become professional musicians. In the past, with musicals like Les Miserables, The Little Mermaid, and Oklahoma, directed by Caryn Elefante, the pit orchestra has been large. For example, Oklahoma’s pit orchestra had over twenty musicians. This allows many high school musicians the chance to be in the pit. However, last year’s musical Footloose had a significantly smaller pit orchestration: the only instruments needed were a keyboard, clarinet, flute, guitar, bass, and percussion. As such, less than ten musicians were allowed to play in the pit, which many MHS students were disappointed in. Unfortunately, the Bright Star orchestration looks to be similar, with only ten musicians listed for the orchestral information.

 

MDO interviewed several student musicians about this orchestration choice. All expressed disappointment. “I don’t like the decision,” senior oboist and English horn player Kendall Marino states, “the pit is really small and that’s not fair to many musicians who would also like to be in the pit.” Marino was in the pit orchestra for Oklahoma! but, due to the small orchestration of both Footloose and Bright Star, will not get the opportunity to play in the pit. Instead, she, like many musicians unable to participate in the pit, will be in stage crew.

 

Unfortunately, the already small pit will become even smaller, as several of the instruments listed for the orchestration are not played by any high schooler. The banjo, guitar, and mandolin parts seem likely to be played by hired professional musicians, shrinking the predicted student representation in the pit to perhaps less than five.

 

“I hope they have contact information for a really good banjo player,” senior trumpet and keyboard player Rebecca Moore comments, “otherwise it’s going down in flames.”

Hopefully, this will not be the case, but the results will speak for themselves in the spring of 2019 when Madison High School puts on its production of Bright Star.

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