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Bright Star’ Premieres At Old Globe Theater

Steve Martin And Edie Brickell On Creating A New American Musical

KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando speaks with Steve Martin and Edie Brickell about how to make a musical sing.

KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando speaks with the creative team behind the Old Globe's production of "Bright Star."

Transcript

The new musical "Bright Star " had its world premiere over the weekend at the Old Globe Theater.

You might be surprised to find out what makes wild and crazy guy Steve Martin cry.

“I always like it when the song starts up, it always makes me cry a little bit,” Martin said.

Martin grew up loving Broadway musicals like “The Music Man,” “Oklahoma,” and “West Side Story,” and seeing them as these very emotional forms.

“Since I began working with Edie Brickell and started writing music with her, we had talked about musicals and about how much we love them and how much we were moved by them, especially the ones we grew up with,” Martin explained.

“It was the last day of recording our record and Steve asked if I would write a musical with him and I said, 'Twist my arm, I’d love it!',” Edie Brickell said.

Brickell and Martin were fresh off their Grammy winning collaboration "Love Has Come for You" and were looking for just the right story to turn into a musical. Brickell found it in a 100-year-old newspaper story.

“Well I can’t say too much about it because I don’t want to spoil it, but it’s about a woman with a secret and a mystery about her,” Brickell stated.

And it’s about a young man returning from war and wanting to start a life as a writer. Hollywood, which produced a steady flow of musicals for decades, has more recently seemed to have forgotten how to break into song. But on stage this artifice can seem like the most natural thing if you know how to do it right.

For Brickell it seems perfectly natural: “Music was the food of our household. When my mom was struggling or in a mood, she’d put on music so she always had on music 'cause she was a very hard-working woman, and I admire the energy she brought to the house when she played music and danced around and forgot her troubles.”

Martin adds that it’s “just part of what you have to do, you have to figure out when a song comes or when it doesn’t come.”

Director Walter Bobbie says traditionally a character breaks into song at a peak of emotion: “That’s why it’s wonderful finding that peak, where nothing else (is) left to do but to sing. That your heart is so open, traumatized, exhilarated, joyous or saddened that the only way to express it is to go into song.”

“When there’s music, there’s a greater sense of emotion so really, it helps a lyric. It helps a singer’s melody because the music is so moving that it supports the theme of the emotion,” Brickell said.

Brickell and Martin are newbies to the musical form, and they've chosen a style of music for "Bright Star," namely bluegrass, which is unconventional to the form. But Globe artistic director Barry Edelstein says there’s nothing naïve going on here.

“Even though they are new at it, there’s a very high degree of sophistication. Still, there is a sense of wonderment at what the form can do, and that frees them from the kind of rule book that could otherwise be constraining,” Edelstein said.

Martin says he’s always been lucky the first time trying something out: “Because you’re fairly innocent, you might do things that you wouldn’t do your third time out. I feel very good about what we have done and filled with a real artistic spirit like we haven’t been beaten down.”

Brickell shares his enthusiasm for the process: “This is the most exciting thing I have ever done because I love the collaborative nature of it. Steve and I thought we have this musical, it feels really good and you hand it over to a director, a choreographer, a musical arranger, and an orchestrator and you see what it can become.”

Audiences can now see what "Bright Star" has become and discover the secret at the heart of this rare treat, a brand new American musical.

It runs through November 2 at the Old Globe Theater.

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