Bluegrass and country music are an unusual aspect of the musical theatre piece “Bright Star.” Playing drums for William & Mary’s upcoming production is also a departure for Chip Dangerio ’24.
“I think what made me gravitate towards this specific piece is the way that the music isn’t overly jaunty or flamboyant like most other musicals that I’ve heard about in the past,” Dangerio said. “The score has that feel-good bluegrass motion, which is way different than the twang you hear in most other country and folk music.”
“Bright Star” will run Nov. 17-20 at the Kimball Theatre. Directed by Guest Director Dana Margulies with musical direction by Phaedra McNorton, W&M lecturer in musical theatre and musical theatre director. “Bright Star” is a combination of the book by comedian Steve Martin and lyrics by singer-songwriter Edie Brickell, with story and music by both artists.
The music helps propel the story of a man and woman who meet right after World War II in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and are intertwined in unexpected ways after one of them makes a discovery. W&M theatre’s performances will feature a professional banjo player as well as student musicians Dangerio, Sam Chenkin ’25 on bass, Mary Rice ’25 on cello, Calder Sprinkle ’25 on mandolin and graduate student Benny Netzer on fiddle.
Dangerio started playing the drums and guitar in middle school, but not in the genre of the typical Broadway show tune.
“Bright Star’s repertoire is a massive departure from what I normally spend my time practicing on,” Dangerio said. “I’ve been a rock and metal guitarist and drummer for about nine years now, so it took a lot of getting used to when it came to dealing with a delicate, wavy technique compared to the forcefulness and vigor that I’ve gotten used to with rock and metal. The speeds are a lot slower than what I’m used to as well.”
Approachable to audiences, the show represents a different kind of theatre experience.
“I think people are going to enjoy listening to a more obscure Broadway show; I recommend the production to anybody wanting to expand their horizons,” Dangerio said. “If anybody’s looking for a nostalgia-tinged experience, I recommend this production to those people, too. Anybody that’s into outright melodrama and explicit sentimentality would get a kick out of it, too.”
Dangerio came to W&M intending to major in neuroscience, but after a bout with depression during COVID-19 he took a semester off last year. After considering switching to pre-pharmacy and with McNorton’s encouragement, he decided to declare his major in music.
“Since I was 5, my free time had revolved around drumming or rock music in some fashion, and I came to realize that I’d be spending more and more time away from those passions if I were to continue along the chemistry path,” Dangerio said.
He emphasized that music teaches people to be regimented. Private instruction is important to individual musicians’ growth, according to Dangerio, and he is interested in possibly working as a freelance music teacher or an instructor tied to a university or school.
“Learning an instrument really humbles you and teaches you to put in the work; you learn patience and discipline,” Dangerio said. “Individual attention is what musicians need to improve their craft; someone to point out what they’re doing wrong.”
Performing with a group of musicians while stepping out into a different genre in “Bright Star” is a new and welcome experience.
“I like theatre music because I just love playing music — interacting with the other musicians and really feeling the music,” Dangerio said. “Regardless of genre, being a part of something is really rewarding to me.”
Jennifer L. Williams, Communications Specialist