NEW YORK (WNCN) – A musical set in North Carolina, including the Wake County town of Zebulon, and penned Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, is drawing raves on Broadway in a season packed with high-powered performances.
Martin and Brickell produced a sweeping story that tracks the life of literary editor Alice Murphy, who grows up in Zebulon and rises to be the editor of a literary magazine in Asheville.
Asheville has a rich literary history and was once the home of North Carolina’s Thomas Wolfe.
The story bounces from Murphy’s youth in Zebulon, where she has a romantic relationship with the mayor’s son, to her time as editor of The Asheville Southern Journal in 1945. In Asheville she becomes involved with Billy Cane, a World War II veteran who yearns to be a writer.
The play has been nominated for five Tony Awards, including best musical and lead actress for Carmen Cusack.
Martin and Cusack appeared on CBS This Morning Tuesday.
“We are telling a story – a hypothetical story but a story based on a true event,” Martin said.
Martin said the idea from the play came from a 1904 newspaper article in which a baby was thrown from a train in a suitcase in 1902 in Missouri – and lived.
That sparked Martin and Brickel to produce a play along a similar theme, but one based in North Carolina.
“Our play tells the story of what could have happened,” Martin told CBS This Morning.
USA Today compares the play to the “Golden Age” musicals like “The Music Man” and Newsday calls it “downright wonderful.”
“The performances are superb,” reported The New York Times. “Ms. Cusack moves so smoothly between the younger and older Alice that, while we are always clearly aware of which one we are watching, we also see the continuity between the aspiring if reckless teenager of the 1920s and the mature but emotionally restrained woman of the 1940s. Her singing, trimmed with a slight twang, is impeccable both in the bloom in her voice and the emotion she invests in the lyrics.”
The play, directed by Walter Bobbie, opened March 24 at the Cort Theatre. It is the first stage musical by Martin and Brickell.
Martin is an accomplished blue grass musician who has been to Raleigh for the International Bluegrass Festival in past years.
Cusack, who has performed in top players like “Wicked,” has flourished in the role.
“I felt like I knew this character immediately,” she said.