Bright Star Theatre Company to stage original musical | Daily Herald

The cast of Bright Star Theatre Company, from left, top row: Alyssa Goldstein (companion, Riverwoods), Jay Slotnick (Northbrook), Arsheel Lalani (Glenview), Sandra Abrams (companion, Deerfield), Callan Cox (Deerfield), Director Julie Gibson Lay (Northbrook), Katie Baeckelandt (Glenview), Marlee Fradin (Deerfield), North Suburban Special Recreation Association Recreation Manager Meggan Davies (Palatine); bottom row: Will Karp (Glencoe), Nora Risinger (companion, Northbrook), Melanie Martinez (Northbrook), Lisa Krupinski (Glenview), Jonah Townsley (Northbrook), Kathleen Dreger (Highland Park) and Lilah Townsley (companion, Northbrook). Courtesy of North Suburban Special Recreation Association

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Submitted by NSSRA –  January 11, 2019
Daily Herald

Actors in the Northbrook-based Bright Star Theatre Company are buzzing with activity preparing for their upcoming March performances of this year’s original musical, “The Hive.” Starring nine actors with disabilities and their volunteer Creative Companions, rehearsals began in September.

After several years of licensing popular shows, director Julie Gibson Lay decided it was time to pen a show of her own with Bright Star Theatre Company cast members in mind.

“What do two local moms full of spunk and imagination do over the summer? They write a musical together, of course,” said Gibson Lay, who wrote the show with friend Joan Matthews, both of Northbrook.

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 rocked by change, the story of two struggling young bees on their path to self-discovery. The story is a lighthearted one, jammed with kooky puns, tongue-in-cheek dialogue and catchy music. It is sure to inspire and bring a smile to your face.

“We started out with a universal theme — that of young people in search of their own individuality — and we fashioned the story around the actual actors in the troupe,” said Matthews. “The most exciting thing for me was getting to meet the actors during rehearsals and watching them bring our story to life.”

“I’m really happy about playing Johnny Bee Goode, because he is so excited and has a big smile on his face and makes people laugh,” said Jay Slotnick, a longtime North Suburban Special Recreation Association participant, in his second year acting with Bright Star Theatre Company.

Along with Johnny Bee Goode, characters include Queen Elizabee, May Bee and Lord Buzzkill, just to name a few. “The original show this year has been really different,” said Marlee Fradin, a junior at Deerfield High School. Fradin has been a companion in the program for six years.

“It’s really fun because it’s the first time we’re performing the show, so we can make it our own,” Fradin said. “It also comes with a lot more work because the story line is new to all of us, but it really shows off everyone’s uniqueness well and how well they can act.”

“This year the cast has an opportunity to improvise during one of the songs,” said Gibson Lay. “We started with a gem of an idea and I let them run with it. I have been so blown away by their creative ownership.”

The performances will take place at Northbrook Theatre at 5 p.m. Saturday, March 16 and 1 p.m. Sunday, March 17. Tickets will go on sale Friday, Feb. 1, online at and the Northbrook Leisure Center Box Office.

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

For information about Northern Suburban Special Recreation Association, visit

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