Raise the curtain!

Live theater returns with Cullman High’s ‘Bright Star’

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“Bright Star” opened Thursday night at Cullman High School. Left right are Lydia Wells, Madison Smith, Emiley Gable, Lake Murphree, Kate Rains, Caleb Brown, Dominick Brunetti, Mary Claire Page, Devon Campbell, Laci New, Clay Brown, Chandler Greer, Cannon Trimble, Joey Ruse, Avery Drake and Logan Kee. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Live theater returned to Cullman Thursday with the opening of Cullman High School’s COVID-friendly production of the Steve Martin Broadway hit “Bright Star.”

Broadway.com gives this synopsis of the musical:

“Featuring a score by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, Bright Star is set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and travels between 1945 and 1923. Billy Cane, a young soldier just home from World War II, meets Alice Murphy, the brilliant editor of a southern literary journal. Together they discover a powerful secret that alters their lives.”

The story is based on true events, and the school’s Theatre Department web page calls it “a story of redemption, love and second chances.”

COVID-friendly

Cullman High School Theatre Director Wayne Cook talked to The Tribune in a previous interview about rethinking a stage production to account for the restrictions of the Coronavirus pandemic:

“We do everything safe. We’ve had to limit rehearsals; we’ve had to limit everything! It’s totally different from what we’re normally used to. But we’ve put together a plan based on the safety protocols, and the administration thought it was a good plan, and we’ve been implementing it since the beginning of the semester. We’ve scheduled this show; once we got into it and started working a little bit on it- of course, we were working on it last spring, but we had to recast it, redevelop it. We’ve had to socially distance the show, so we re-blocked it. We’ve got a lot of different things going on that we didn’t have in the spring; we don’t have live musicians, we’re going to be doing recorded music, things like that. Just a lot of things are different about it, but, you know, I’ve got some of the most talented kids that I have ever worked with in this show. Some of my seniors are some of the most talented kids I’ve ever had; I just hate for them not to go out with something strong. So we’re working on the show; we’re going to do it.”

This week, as final preparations were being made for the opening, Cook shared, “I would say that it has been a very difficult year, but we are so excited about actually putting something on the stage. We are extremely proud of these students and how they have handled the difficulties and been overcomers. 

Sarah Jane Skinner, who is the school’s choral director and music director for the production, told The Tribune, “There were certainly challenges which arose when we began rehearsals with COVID restrictions. The most difficult was in having to rework the blocking, or placements and paths of the actors. It caused us to have to be more creative to portray emotional moments without the actors being able to touch one another. We, both the directors and the students, were forced to think outside the box and grow as creative artists, which I found to be an interesting and rewarding challenge, even with its frustrating days. 

“As always, I have been very impressed with Mr. Cook’s ability to keep everyone calm, focused and working toward a goal. I have also been so proud of the resilience, creativity and determination of this cast to present not only a production, but one as high-quality and moving as this. These kids hold a very special place in my heart.”

Come and see, or even stay home and see!

“We hope people will help support this production,” said Cook. “There are limited seats due to COVID restrictions and we hope to sell every ticket. The ticket revenue helps us with our program and is important for us to have so we can do the next production. My hope is that people who have enjoyed Cullman Theatre in the past will be willing to buy tickets to this show to support the program. We have streaming passes and live in person tickets for sale.”

The show will run through Feb. 2, with in-person shows Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and a 2 p.m. Saturday matinee; Friday evening’s show will be streamed, and streaming-only shows will take place Monday and Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Streaming passes can be purchased at https://cullmanhs.booktix.com

In-person tickets can be purchased at https://gofan.co/app/school/AL560

Cook concluded “This cast is incredible, and this show is very incredibly engaging. People will regret not being able to see it. I really want to encourage everyone to come and see these very talented students.

“I want to thank my wife and family. Their support for what I do makes it possible. They are the biggest supporters of Cullman Theatre. I want to thank Mrs. Skinner for her help. Without her it would be very hard for us to do what we do. Thanks needs to be given to the other Fine Arts teachers at CHS. Our project has been a collaboration of all their minds and ideas. I also want to thank our school administrators. They have been so supportive in a very difficult year. They are always wanting the best for the students.”

At a glance

Cullman High School Theatre’s production of “Bright Star”

Cullman High School Auditorium

Friday, Jan. 29 through Feb. 2, 2021

In-person shows Friday, Jan. 29 and Saturday, Jan. 30 at 7 p.m. 

2 p.m. Saturday matinee

In-person tickets can be purchased at https://gofan.co/app/school/AL560

Live streamed shows Friday, Jan. 29, Monday, Feb. 1, Tuesday, Feb. 2 at 7 p.m.

Streaming passes can be purchased at https://cullmanhs.booktix.com.

 

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Devon Campbell (Billy) and Mary Claire Page (Margo) perform their library scene in “Bright Star.” (Coleman Callan for The Cullman Tribune)
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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com