Bright Star Theatre Company’s Original Musical, THE HIVE, Captivates Audiences at Northbrook Theatre

The cast of THE HIVE breaking out into a joyous dance party during the closing scenes of THE HIVE. Center: Companion Lilah Townsley (Northbrook) with actor Kathleen Dreger (Highland Park) lighting up the stage with their dance moves.

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Northbrook – April 4, 2019 – Cast members of Bright Star Theatre Company (BSTC) captivated audiences last month at their debut performances of THE HIVE, an original musical written specifically with cast members in mind.

Starring nine actors with disabilities and their volunteer Creative Companions, rehearsals for the show began last September and culminated on Saturday, March 16 and Sunday, March 17 with performances at Northbrook Theatre.

BSTC Director Julie Gibson Lay, speaking of the cast and companions, remarked, “Seeing the Bright Star actors bring our story to life was an unforgettable experience; they were amazing!” She continued, “The audience was blown away by their performance — clapping and laughing and cheering all the way through.”

After several years of licensing popular shows, Gibson Lay decided it was time to pen a show of her own, enlisting the help of friend Joan Matthews, both of Northbrook. “Each role was tailored specifically for a member of BSTC to build on their natural abilities and talents,” shared Matthews. “This allowed them to succeed and shine in a way not often available to them.”

A family affair, music for the show was composed by Gibson Lay’s husband, Chris, and son, Cecil, a senior at Glenbrook North High School, and the artwork was created by Matthews’ daughter, Julia, a junior in high school.

The setting of the show is a beehive trapped in the clutches of Lord Buzzkill, an evil wasp who has seized control of the hive and subsequently banned all music. Dancing is only allowed for the purpose of making honey. Queen Elizabee, the kind, former ruler of the hive, charges her grandson, Johnny Bee Goode, with finding where Lord Buzzkill hid her old disco records. Along the way, Johnny meets another young bee who is different just like him, Honey Bee, and together they set out to take down Lord Buzzkill, find Queen Elizabee’s records and restore happiness to the hive again. Jammed with kooky puns, tongue-in-cheek dialogue and catchy music, the story is both lighthearted and poignant.

“Everybody deserves a chance to show the world who they are and what they are capable of, rather than always being defined by how other people see them,” said Gibson Lay. “Bright Star is such a valuable community program because it literally sets the stage for participants’ individual personalities and passions to shine.”

“THE HIVE is all about what special needs actors can do, not what they can’t,” added Matthews. “The show was an amazing success and a ton of fun.”


NSSRA provides and facilitates year-round recreation programs and services for children, teens and adults with disabilities who live in the partner communities. NSSRA is an extension of ten park districts, two cities and one village in the northern suburbs of Chicago. This partnership includes the Park Districts of Deerfield, Glencoe, Glenview, Highland Park, Kenilworth, Lake Bluff, Northbrook, Northfield, Wilmette and Winnetka; the Cities of Highwood and Lake Forest; and the Village of Riverwoods. NSSRA has been creating an environment of belonging through play since 1970, and has the distinction as the first Special Recreation Association in the country. For more information about NSSRA and the programs and services it provides visit

In its eighth year, Bright Star Theatre Company is a program produced by Northern Suburban Special Recreation Association (NSSRA) in partnership with Northbrook Park District. Meeting weekly from September to April, the experience combines theatre games, movement exercises and musical training for participants ages 16 and up who work with Northbrook Park District Theatre staff to put on a professional production.

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