In Edie Brickell and Steve Martin’s Broadway musical Bright Star, actor Max Meyers plays Billy Cane, a fresh-faced, hopeful soldier who has just returned home from World War II. While many soldiers came back to America clouded in darkness, Billy comes back to North Carolina with his optimism intact and a determination to achieve his dream of becoming a writer.
We sat down with Max to talk about his love of straight plays, what separates Bright Star from other contemporary musicals, and the challenges he faces while performing in this heartwarming show.
Describe your character, Billy Cane.
Billy is a special person – he has wonderful parents who raised him with lots of spirituality and heart, and ensured that storytelling was a big part of his childhood. He is just such a bright, open, and vulnerable person at all times. Billy is an open-hearted dork, who loves really hard, dreams really hard, and fights really hard.
What makes Bright Star distinct?
Bright Star captures a slice of Americana that has gone overlooked in many other pieces in the musical theatre canon. It takes place, in part, just days after the end of World War II and demonstrates the resilience of the American heart and psyche. As a musical in 2019, Bright Star shows us that we are still capable of being pure of heart and compassionate, even in the face of devastating circumstances.
What was the rehearsal process like? Did you make any discoveries?
I made a ton of discoveries in rehearsal. I had the privilege of performing this role in one of the first productions after the Broadway run ended, and I feel that I’ve grown so much since then.
This cast is an exceptional group and often in rehearsal I would discover that all I have to do to unearth something in a scene is just to observe the humanity of the people onstage with me. We continue to find new things in the show every day because we are all so generous with each other, and we bring our true selves to the piece every time.
What do you enjoy most about Bright Star? What is most challenging aspect of this production for you?
I mean, you’ve gotta love the bluegrass tunes. We’ve got some crazy good musicians on stage and when we are all in sync with them, it’s a real joy to feel the music soar. As far as challenges go, I’ve been starting to feel the emotional impact of engaging with the material every day. I think the hardest part of doing this show is making sure that we are all taking care of ourselves, each other, and our mental health in between performances.
What is something that FST audiences would be surprised to know about you?
Well, I love musicals, but it’s possible that I love plays even more! Billy was a dream role of mine, and I have my eye set on a handful of roles that have been inspirations to me as a performer over the past few years, like Charlie in Significant Other by Joshua Harmon, Richard II in Richard II, and Casey in The Legend of Georgia McBride (which is actually closing FST’s Mainstage Season this year).
Why should people come to see Bright Star?
I think anyone who’s struggling with something would benefit from seeing this show. It leaves you feeling so full. It reminds you that your struggles will have an end to them and that the sun is gonna shine again on the other side.
Due to popular demand, Bright Star was been held over twice and ran from November 6, 2019, to January 17, 2020, in FST’s Gompertz Theatre.