The new Broadway musical Bright Star had a certain shine about it from the get go—it was inevitable, considering the show was written and composed by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell. But since Bright Star made its debut, more than just the show’s creators have had time to shine. The actress Hannah Elless plays Margo Crawford, a small-town bookstore owner whose love for a lifelong friend comes close to tearing her apart, and thanks to her strong, sweet and funny performance, the character becomes one of the show’s most endearing. Here, she discusses the show with DuJour.
So, your show has opened and has earned glowing reviews. Is everything calming down a bit for you?
It’s still insane, because every person who sits down in this theatre has never heard this score and has never heard this story. At the stage door, people want to talk to you and share their own stories about family and forgiveness or maybe love or loss in their life. I’ve never seen a stage door where fans want to talk about their own personal experiences so much. We will be out there chatting with fans for 45 minutes or an hour. People are so touched by this show, i t’s really cathartic and it warms my heart to hear that because obviously it’s so fun to share the story every night. I love hearing that it’s affecting people.
Was that the sort of thing you were expecting when you joined the show?
Not at all! I got the script and I still remember reading it for the first time. I cried when I finished act one. I was by myself reading it and it brought me to tears, I was so touched by it. And I thought I have to do this show. And I missed the auditions for the workshop in New York City. I was devastated and thought, well, I missed it, and I gave up on it. But then it came back around and I got to audition and it really felt like destiny.
The show does an incredible job of using bluegrass to tell its story. It’s not your traditional musical. Why do you think that’s resonating with audiences?
I think shows like Once came around and turned an amazing film into a piece of theater, and now people wanted to experience that music live every night. There is something about that style of music that gets in your bones and resonates with people. I will often be finishing the show, we will be at our bows and see rows of people crying because they’ve been touched by something. There were shows that came before that paved the way for this sound on Broadway.
I think people get scared that it’s going be this twangy banjo experience, but Bright Star is really sophisticated. I joke that it’s like having a string quartet and then you added banjo to it. It’s almost like chamber music.
You said the script made you cry. What about it was so affecting?
I’ve been working on new plays and films and musicals for the past three years, so I’ve been reading a lot of scripts and screenplays. When this one touched me, I had to pay attention to it and the character that I play, Margo, is put in a situation in the show where she misses her chance. She misses her opportunity to say what she’s been longing to say for years and when I got to that part in the story I identified with it. I saw her. Sometimes you read a character down and you see them. And I knew that if I got a chance to create this girl, that I could bring my own life experience but also explore other parts of humanity and create somebody that I think a lot of people can identify with.