'Sun's Gonna Shine' Video Premiere

"Bright Star" cast unveils video as message of hope

By John Moore

The lyrics reverberated down Wadsworth Boulevard last fall when the Arvada Center staged the sentimental bluegrass musical “Bright Star” as part of its Main Stage theatrical season:

Something tells me it'll be all right.
Something tells me it's gonna be OK.
The sun is gonna shine again.
The sun is gonna shine again.

The underdog musical wound its way around audience’s hearts then – and its echoes are rising back up today as an anthem of hope while the coronavirus pandemic continues to rob the world of lives and optimism.

On Friday, the Arvada Center sent those bright lyrics back out into the virtual universe as a video of the cast singing “Sun’s Gonna Shine” to encourage anyone struggling through this extended period of isolation. (Look back at the watch party on the Arvada Center’s Facebook page.)

“I think it will hit home with a lot of people,” said Rod Lansberry, the Arvada Center’s Producing Artistic Director of Musical Theatre. “It’s just what we all needed.”

The video, edited by Arvada Center Production Artist Pierce Murphy, was compiled from segments separately recorded by 12 “Bright Star” cast members from their homes.

“Bright Star,” written by comedian Steve Martin with pop-music star Edie Brickell, is set in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the 1940s, with flashbacks to 1923. It recounts the true story of William Moses Gould Helms, who was left to die by his grandfather at just five days old but miraculously survived a near-fatal, 50-foot toss from a Missouri bridge. The epic tale follows mother and son over two decades toward their uplifting reunion, making for a theatrical journey that was as refreshingly genuine as it was daringly hopeful.

Which makes “Sun’s Gonna Shine” just the right song now, seven months later, when theatres throughout the country are now shut down and audiences are confined to their homes.

“Solitude is a slow burn,” said actor Merideth Kaye Clark, who played Alice Murphy and is the lead vocalist on “Sun’s Gonna Shine.” “At first, the quiet is peaceful, and longtime procrastinated goals have a chance to emerge. Then we may get aimless and restless.” Then the most painful part sets in. “We start missing hugs,” she said.

Handshakes may soon become a thing of the past, but if Clark has her way, we are about to enter the Golden Age of “The Hug.”

"My arms would be big enough to stretch around the whole world.” – Merideth Kaye Clark

“I want to start by hugging everyone I shared the stage with in ‘Bright Star,’” she said. “Then I'd visit each of my friends at the Arvada Center who made this video possible. Then, like a greeting party, I would go down the line and give a big hug to every staff member, patron and audience member at the Arvada Center – and any friend I made during my time in Arvada. Then I might go down the street to Steuben's and hug the person who makes the reuben sandwiches there. Then I might go to the local library and give each and every one there a big squeeze, too. And the folks who make the parks there so beautiful. And the folks at the Butterfly Pavilion. And the zookeepers at the Denver Zoo. And all my friends at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. ‘The Hug Circle’ would expand from there, and my arms would be big enough to stretch around the whole world.

“I would squeeze them all, eyes closed, and sing, ‘The sun IS gonna shine again’ to every one of them!"

All of this potential hugging can be traced back to an idea first had by Arvada Center Director of Communications Marcus Turner. He hosts the Arvada Center’s “Living Room Talkback Series” – virtual talkbacks that allow audiences to watch interviews from their homes with members of the Arvada Center’s now shuttered series of Black Box plays such as “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

“As we were doing that video series, I realized that our musical theatre audiences might be feeling left out, and we wanted to give them something special, too,” said Turner, who brought the idea to Lansberry to reunite the “Bright Star” cast to sing “Sun’s Gonna Shine.” The song had never really left Turner’s head, in part because last September, the cast performed a virtual version of the song and raised $600 for Red Cross Disaster Relief in North Carolina.

Lansberry thought it was a perfect match of material and moment. “The way that number expresses all the adversity and trials that Alice went through, and yet she still comes around to the idea that it will get better – that’s what makes it such a perfect number,” Lansberry said. “She doesn’t start happy but she gets to a place of positivity – and I think that’s what we’re all hoping to find right now.”

Lansberry took the idea to the 12 cast members who sang in the “Sun’s Gonna Shine” number during the actual production, and they all agreed to participate: Clark, Nolan Baker, Abby Apple Boes, Joe Callahan, Zayaz Da Camara, Seth Dhonau, Leiney Rigg, Benjamin Roeling, Michelle Sergeeff, Lauren Shealy, Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck, and Seles VanHuss.

Pierce, also a jazz musician and an audio engineer, offered the singers tips on best recording practices. He also handled all of the intricate post-production details.

Here’s what some of the cast members had to say about the opportunity to virtually reunite for the recording:

  • "It is difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel during these dark and confusing times. Stay focused on the light and the sun will shine on us even brighter than before.” Abby Apple Boes
  • “A simple truth that too often slips our minds: Things will get better.” Joe Callahan  
  • “Although many are battling anxiety from extreme uncertainty, hold tight to trust and faith that there is, eventually, an end to this. Alone together we are resilient. Find how the sun is shining for you each and every day.” Nolan Baker
  • “I suffer from terrible anxiety, and after stage productions started being canceled by the virus, ‘Son’s Gonna Shine’ became both my mantra and my motto during a very frightening time. The song really does convey the way I was feeling all the while telling myself that everything was going to be OK – just the way Mama Murphy tells Alice.” Zayaz Da Camara
  • “We go through ups and downs in life. Sometimes it gets really dark, but when the light comes back, it seems the brightest after darkness. The sun will shine again, and we all will be together again.” Michelle Sergeeff

Arvada Center cast list:

  • Dieter Bierbrauer
  • Abby Apple Boes
  • Larry Cahn
  • Joe Callahan
  • Merideth Kaye Clark
  • Zayaz Da Camara
  • Seth Dhonau
  • Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck
  • Steph Holmbo
  • Jacob Mendes
  • Elliot Peterson
  • Leiney Rigg
  • Jeffrey Roark
  • Mark Rubald
  • Michelle Sergeeff
  • Lauren Shealy
  • Rebecca Spence
  • Seles VanHuss

Creative team:

  • Director: Rod A. Lansberry
  • Music Director: Eric Alsford
  • Choreographer: Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck
  • Scenic Design: Brian Mallgrave
  • Lighting Design: Shannon McKinney
  • Sound Design: David Thomas
  • Costume Design: Clare Henkel
  • Wig and Makeup Design: Diana Ben-Kiki
  • Stage Manager: Kristin Sutter
  • Assistant Stage Manager: Tiffany Lutz
  • Casting by Wojcik | Seay

“Sun’s Gonna Shine” lyrics

Written by Edie Brickell

Lonely broken feeling.
Lonely to my soul.
You got the look.
You got the feel.
You got the face of true love.
You got the charm.
You got appeal.
I got to let you go.

So long sweet embraces.
So long summertime.
You got the power.
You got the faith.
You got the El Camino.
You got the night.
You got the day.
I got the ole dark cloud.

The sun is gonna shine again.
The sun is gonna shine again.

Long time.
I've been waiting a long time.
Long enough.
You got the song.
You got the dance.
You got the inspiration.
You got it all (in the) palm of your hand.
I got the rolling wheel.

 The sun is gonna shine again.
The sun is gonna shine again.

Something tells me it'll be all right.
Something tells me it's gonna be OK.

The sun is gonna shine again.
The sun is gonna shine again.

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