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Partners in Rhyme

Steve Martin and Edie Brickell team up to create a Broadway musical

Author Chris Wright Photography Getty Images (Brickell and Martin)

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You’d think that Edie Brickell— married to Paul Simon, with a notable music career of her own—would have a wide and varied circle of friends. Yet, a few years ago, her social life settled into an odd routine. “I went to all these dinner parties,” she says, “and every time I found myself sitting next to Steve.”

The “Steve” here is Steve Martin, so there are worse things. And since Martin, along with being a hugely successful comedian, an accomplished actor, and a prolific author, is a serious bluegrass banjo player, there was plenty to talk about.

“One time I mentioned how much I like his music and suggested we write a song together,” she says.

“And here we are, 40 or 50 songs later,” Martin adds. “And two albums.” He pauses, presumably for dramatic effect. “And a musical.”

The musical is Bright Star, which debuts on Broadway this month. Set in the American South in the 1920s and ’40s, it is based on a true event and has been billed as a romance with a secret at its core. Other than this, don’t ask—the storyline is being kept strictly under wraps. “It comes as such a shock that we hate to say what it is,” Martin says of the mysterious plot twist. “On the other hand, I’m starting to think maybe it doesn’t matter.”

Martin admits that he’s been feeling a bit George Lucas-y about the level of secrecy surrounding the project. “I was surprised to learn the other day that this Star Wars movie is about space,” he says.

Spoilers may turn out to be the least of their worries. Despite having won a Grammy together in 2014, Martin and Brickell are aware that creating  a full-on musical is a very different proposition from writing individual songs. “When I was told this was going to Broadway, I felt a shiver of delight—and a bit of panic,” Martin says. “But we’ve both been in show business for a long time. We’re used to critics.  We’re used to successes, and we’re used to flops.”

Brickell takes a more pragmatic view, describing the work that went into the production as “better than sitting in the dark.” 

CW (MARCH 31)

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