2016 Tony Awards Nominations: Steve Martin, Edie Brickell Musical ‘Bright Star’ Hopes for B.O. Boost

The biggest beneficiary of Tony Awards attention this year could well turn out to be “Bright Star,” the original musical penned by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell.

The show that opened March 24 at the Cort Theater garnered five bids, including noms for best musical and lead actress for star Carmen Cusack, in the role that marks her Broadway debut. Martin is nommed for the tuner’s book, and he and Brickell are up for music and lyrics honors.

“Bright Star” has been slow out of the gate at the box office, but producer Joey Parnes said Tuesday that sales were definitely reflecting a Tony bounce within hours of the nominations announcement.

Martin and Brickell (yes, the company gets a kick out of calling them “Steve and Edie”) are also Broadway newbies. The pair teamed up more than four years ago to tackle a form of storytelling that was new for both of them. Director Mike Nichols helped them guide the show in its workshop and Old Globe productions prior to his death in November 2014.

Bright Star” is set in the post-World War II era. Cusack plays Alice Murphy, a literary editor whose life is changed when she meets a soldier just home from the war.

Popular on Variety

“I thought doing movies was a collaborative process — but a musical is even more collaborative than anything I’ve ever been involved with,” Martin told Variety. “Everybody contributes equally — the actors, the set designer, the lighting designer, the choreographer — all of these are equal forces impinging on the center. It’s really very hard to do.”

Brickell said the process of seeing their songs come to life on stage was incredibly fulfilling for her as a writer.

“It was the most joyous kind of work, to build this show one song at a time and hand it to a great creative team,” she said. “I don’t consider myself much of a performer but I love to write. To be given the gift of seeing real performers interpret your work — it was so exciting that it never felt like a great labor.”

Brickell added that she was most excited by the nom for Cusack. “I wanted this for her so badly,” she said. “Working with these people so closely, you just fall in love with them.”

Martin noted that they were disappointed director Walter Bobbie did not make the helmer’s race, but the best musical attention — given the stiff competition this year from “Hamilton” and others — helps the entire company’s cause.

“We feel like we served everyone well for their hard work,” Martin said. “It’s a great honor to be a Tony nominee, when you look at the level of talent that is also nominated. I’m proud to be in a category with ‘Hamilton.’ “

In a Broadway season packed with high-wattage new and revival musicals, “Bright Star” has had a hard time grabbing a portion of the spotlight. That’s why the Tony attention is so vital.

“This gets us in the conversation,” Parnes said. “It’s not a secret that we’ve been struggling at the box office. But it’s not that people don’t like the show. This show has the best word-of-mouth among (Broadway) people of any show that I’ve worked on in years.”

An original property is always going to be a harder sell to ticket buyers than something with built-in recognition factor.

That was the quality that attracted Parnes to “Bright Star” in the first place. (Parnes’ extremely busy production banner raked in some 33 nominations this year, 28 of them from his collaborations with uber-producer Scott Rudin.)

“The show is utterly original,” Parnes said. “It’s heartfelt. It’s very emotional. It’s one of the things that appealed to me about it. We need to do more original things on Broadway.”

More Legit

  • Tina Fey attends the "Mean Girls"

    Tina Fey Announces Movie Adaptation of Broadway's 'Mean Girls' Musical

    It’s good to be mean…the “Mean Girls” musical, that is. Producers of the hit Broadway show announced today that the Tony-nominated production is being adapted for the big screen for Paramount Pictures. The musical is based on the 2004 movie of the same name. “I’m very excited to bring ‘Mean Girls’ back to the big screen,’ Tina Fey, [...]

  • Freestyle Love Supreme

    Watch Lin-Manuel Miranda and 'Freestyle Love Supreme' in Exclusive Clip From Sundance Documentary

    Before turning “Hamilton” and “In the Heights” into musical phenomenons, Lin-Manuel Miranda could have been found on stage, spouting off-the-cuff rhymes with his improv group, “Freestyle Love Supreme.” After performing across the globe, the troupe — founded 15 years ago by Miranda, his frequent collaborator Thomas Kail and emcee Anthony Veneziale — made its Broadway [...]

  • Ariana Grande 7 Rings

    Rodgers & Hammerstein Are Having a Moment Thanks to Ariana Grande, 'Oklahoma!'

    Jaws dropped when it was revealed that the late musical theater titans Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II were granted 90% of the songwriting royalties on “7 Rings,” Ariana Grande’s 2019 No. 1 hit. The dominant motif of Grande’s song is taken from “My Favorite Things,” the cornerstone of R&H’s 1959 musical “The Sound of [...]

  • A Soldiers Play review

    'A Soldier's Play': Theater Review

    Now, that’s what I call a play! Charles Fuller’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama “A Soldier’s Play,” now being revived on Broadway by Roundabout Theatre Company, packs plenty of dramatic tension into smoldering issues of racial justice and injustice, military honor and dishonor, and the solemn struggle to balance their harrowing demands on characters who are only [...]

  • Bess Wohl

    Listen: The Impossible Plays of Bess Wohl

    The playwright Bess Wohl is always chasing a wild idea — and she’s found that rather than scaring away her collaborators, it just makes them more eager. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “I started my career thinking, oh, I’ll just write a play that’s really easy to do,” Wohl said on the latest episode [...]

  • Roundabout Theatre Company: Three New Plays

    Roundabout Theatre's Off-Broadway Season Adds Three Shows From Female Playwrights

    Roundabout Theatre Company, led by artistic director and CEO Todd Haimes, announced Tuesday that three female-written plays will be added to the 2020-2021 Off-Broadway season. Sanaz Toossi’s “English” will make its world premiere in fall of 2020, while Lindsey Ferrentino’s “The Year to Come” and Anna Ziegler’s “The Wanderers” will make their New York debuts [...]

  • Gregg Smith, Dancer and Choreographer Assistant,

    Gregg Smith, Dancer and Choreographer Assistant, Dies at 73

    Gregg Smith, a dancer, casting director and assistant choreographer who had a long association with director Kenny Ortega, has died. He was 73. Smith died on Jan. 1. The industry veteran worked as a performer in the national touring company of the musical “Hair” and in a Los Angeles production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” He [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content