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Conversations with creators and organizers of the arts scene in West Michigan, hosted by Cara Lieurance

Period musical “Bright Star” brings Americana touch to Farmers Alley Theatre season-closer

FAT Bright Star 1
Kat Mumma
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Farmers Alley Theatre
Michelle Duffy in Farmers Alley Theatre’s production of “Bright Star”

This interview was recorded when opening night was scheduled for June 16. It now opens June 23 and runs to July 10.

FAT Bright Star 2
Kat Mumma
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Farmers Alley Theatre
Michelle Duffy and Jeremy Koch in “Bright Star”

Closing out the 14th season of Farmers Alley Theatre is Bright Star, a 2014 musical written by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell. Director Kathy Mulay, Jeremy Koch (who plays Jimmy Ray Dobbs, and is FAT Artistic Director) and lead actress Michelle Duffy (Alice Murphy) talked to Cara Lieurance about the story, the folk and bluegrass-influenced score, and the ways in which it hits home today.

Many people in theater left New York during the pandemic, says Michelle Duffy — including herself. She returned to her hometown and her mother, and that brought her closer to her character in Bright Star. “We’re all thinking about how precious that is.”

It’s one of the biggest productions brought to stage by Farmers Alley Theatre, with a cast of 16 and storylines that jump from the 1940s to the 1920s. Michelle Duffy as Alice Murphy opens the show with “If You Knew my Story,” with supporting musicians playing fiddle, banjo, and other traditional folk instruments. Kathy Mulay, Jeremy Koch, and Jason Koch (Billy Kane) a recent theater studies graduate of the University of Michigan, represent three generations of their family taking part in the production.

Cara Lieurance covers local music with live morning interviews, and produces WMUK's Let's Hear It weekday mornings at 10 am Mon-Fri, showcasing local interviews and performances. She also produces The Pure Drop, an hour of Celtic music, with musician Dave Marlatt.