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Abbotsford-based student set to lead in bluegrass musical production at TWU

Bright Star features ‘gorgeous, gut-wrenching songs and rousing banjo and fiddle music’
Madison Willoughby, Braedon Grover Sunnes and Tahlia Wine will star in Trinity Western University’s upcoming musical production of Bright Star. (Jef Gibbons/ Submitted)

Trinity Western University is putting on the musical production Bright Star, which “shows us that miracles can happen and new dreams and hopes are just around the corner.”

And an Abbotsford student is one of the leads in the show.

Braedon Grover Sunnes plays Billy Cain, an aspiring young writer just home from the battlefield after the Second World War. He meets literary editor Alice Murphy, who is on a journey to understand her past. What she discovers holds the power to transform a lifetime of heartache.

The musical is set against the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, and featuring loveable characters and a sweeping score.

“Bright Star is a love story for the ages,” says director and co-chair of theatre at TWU, Kate Muchmore Woo. “The journey of the characters is joyful, tragic, and ultimately deeply satisfying. With gorgeous, gut-wrenching songs and rousing banjo and fiddle music, it is sure to be a crowd pleaser.”

Bright Star involves faculty from both the music and theatre Departments in TWU’s School of the Arts, Media and Culture. Dr. Allan Thorpe is Musical Director and it is his responsibility to oversee the musicians, while Dr. Joel Tranquilla is the vocal coach, ensuring the young actors can faithfully deliver the bluegrass melodies.

“The music is absolutely wonderful – full-bodied, accessible, and really perfect for this group of performers,” says Tranquilla. “There’s an honesty and a directness which is so refreshing to hear.”

Thorpe agrees, noting that “The bluegrass style of the music has a friendly charm that welcomes us into the world of the play. It is a pleasure to support these talented young artists who bring to life what was once just words and dots on a page.”

With seventeen actors and eight musicians, as well as numerous others helping behind the scenes, Bright Star is a big undertaking. But as the world begins to emerge from shutdowns after two years of the pandemic, they feel it is the right show at the right time.

“This is a story of resiliency in the face of loss, something we are all far too familiar with,” Woo says. “Like the characters, we have lost sight of what life used to be like and some days we don’t know how we will make it through. But Bright Star shows us that miracles can happen and new dreams and hopes are just around the corner.”

The rolling blues of the Appalachian hills where the story takes place inspired Vanka Salim’s rustic set and Graham Ockley’s romantic lighting. With scenes in both the 1920s and the 1940s, costume designer Kerri Norris and choreographer Lalainia Lindjberg Strelau evoke two different eras with flare, fashion, and fun.

“After so many months with little community or engagement, this is the perfect opportunity to come together and celebrate,” Woo exclaims. “Let yourself journey across the miles and back in time as together we come to believe – as the song says – The Sun is Gonna Shine Again.”

Bright Star plays on the Langley campus of TWU, from March 15 to April 2, Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m., plus Saturday matinees at 2 p.m. on March 26 and April 2. There are no performances Thursdays. Tickets and full cast information available at

Jessica Peters

About the Author: Jessica Peters

I began my career in 1999, covering communities across the Fraser Valley ever since.
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