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Edie Brickell, Steve Martin Broadway Bound With 'Bright Star'
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Edie Brickell, Steve Martin Broadway Bound With 'Bright Star'

Theater

Edie Brickell, Steve Martin Broadway Bound With 'Bright Star'

Edie Brickell, Steve Martin Broadway Bound With 'Bright Star'
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In 2014, Steve Martin and Edie Brickell won a Grammy for the title track to their Bluegrass album Love Has Come for You. Now the duo is headed to Broadway with a musical inspired by that album.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

It is time now for a musical equation. Start with the singer best known for this hit from the late 1980s.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHAT I AM")

EDIE BRICKELL AND THE NEW BOHEMIANS: (Singing) I'm not aware of too many things. I know what I know, if you know what I mean.

GREENE: Add some banjo from a superstar actor and comedian, and somehow you come up with this.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE HAS COME FOR YOU")

EDIE BRICKELL: (Singing) She had a child by that man from the bank. He was married with a son.

GREENE: Edie Brickell and Steve Martin won a Grammy for this song in 2014 and now they are headed for Broadway. NPR's Vince Pearson reports on their new musical, "Bright Star."

VINCE PEARSON, BYLINE: To begin, let's think back to the 1970s and Steve Martin the comic. You can probably picture him in a white suit with an arrow through his head.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")

STEVE MARTIN: (As himself) To open the show, I always like to do one thing that is impossible. So right now I'm going to suck this piano into my lungs.

(LAUGHTER)

PEARSON: Even then the banjo was a big part of the act.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")

MARTIN: (As himself playing banjo).

Hey, this guy is good.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: (As himself playing banjo).

I'm a ramblin' guy.

(LAUGHTER)

PEARSON: Martin's five-string was always more than a comedy prop. But in recent years it's really taken center stage.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHEN YOU GET TO ASHEVILLE")

MARTIN: (Playing banjo).

PEARSON: He did a solo album and then Edie Brickell approached him to write a song with her. And to her surprise, he sent her a tune - and then another.

BRICKELL: And it almost became a game, a fun challenge with music. He always had an idea and I would bounce one back.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHEN YOU GET TO ASHEVILLE")

BRICKELL: (Singing) When you get to Asheville, send me an email.

BRICKELL: There's so much emotion and drama in the way that he plays banjo and in the melodies that he comes up with that I can just picture people and situations, and all I have to do is sing it out.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHEN YOU GET TO ASHEVILLE")

BRICKELL: (Singing) Ooh, if it don't work out...

PEARSON: And before long, they had an album and some gigs.

MARTIN: On the tour bus, we both found that we grew up on musicals and how much we'd loved them.

PEARSON: That is, of course, Steve Martin.

MARTIN: And I had actually been working on a musical of my own which I just thought was terrible, and so I put it aside.

PEARSON: And he and Brickell started working together. Martin wrote the story and the music, Brickell wrote the lyrics, for a show inspired by their album.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "BRIGHT STAR")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #1: (As character singing) Ooh, if it don't work out...

PEARSON: "Bright Star" is set in North Carolina in the 1920s and '40s. It's about a young man who dreams about being a writer, the veteran editor who becomes his mentor, and the tragedy that connects them. It's based on a true story, but Brickell won't say much about that.

BRICKELL: Because I think it'll give away too much.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "BRIGHT STAR")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #2: (As character singing) If you need my story, you'd have a good story to tell.

PEARSON: Now, neither Martin or Brickell are in the show but their personalities do shine through. Brickell says her rural Texas roots really informed these songs.

BRICKELL: I grew up in the country a lot as a little girl so I know all these different characters and it's easy for me to remember them and let them spark my imagination.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "BRIGHT STAR")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #2: (As character singing) Backs have broken from lesser ways, I know. I was born to carry more than I can hold.

PEARSON: And then there is that Steve Martin sense of humor.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "BRIGHT STAR")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #3: (As character) Darryl and I read your stories.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Yes, I thought they were extraordinary.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) Really? Extraordinary?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Oh, sorry. I said that too fast. Extra ordinary.

PEARSON: Martin says he worked really hard to get the funny parts just right.

MARTIN: To me, if a one-line joke, a humorous line in the show doesn't work, that's a fiasco. So I'm immediately on it to change it or smooth it out or delete it. And it eats away at me if it even remains in for another day.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "BRIGHT STAR")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character singing) You never know what life will bring, only what you bring to life.

MARTIN: But there's no plan to any of this. There's no, now I want to write a musical, now I want this. It's just serendipity. It's one thing leading to another. An accidental meeting with Edie led to two records and a musical.

PEARSON: Jokes, songs, drama - this is where Steve Martin lives. I asked him if the musical might be the perfect vehicles for his talents.

MARTIN: (Laughter) Well, we'll know after the reviews come out.

PEARSON: "Bright Star" is playing at the Kennedy Center in Washington. In March, it debuts on Broadway. Vince Pearson, NPR News.

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