Star of the Week: Bright Star might be dimming but Hannah Elless shines brightly

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by Casey Mink

The shimmering new musical Bright Star has been one of the sweetest spots of this Broadway season, thanks in no small part to Hannah Elless.

Elless, who has been with the musical since its 2014 tryout in San Diego, has taken on the role of spunky bookstore employee Margo Crawford, a role she has imbued with humor and aplomb. Forlorn and in love with Billy Cane [A.J. Shively], a soldier returning to his small town in North Carolina following World War II, Margo could have easily dipped into the cliché, but in Elless’ skilled and loving hands, she’s elevated to one of the show’s strongest forces. Her act one showstopper ‘Asheville’ stands out as one of the most gorgeous songs, even in a musical bursting with beautiful music. 

Alas, even the brightest stars must sometimes dim, and audiences will say their final farewell to Margo (and her envy-worthy array of floral dresses) on June 26, when the heartwarming musical, which was co-created by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, will play its final performance at the Cort Theatre. However, if there is justice in this world – or justice on Broadway, rather – it won’t be long before Elless is once again gracing its stages. 

A Midwestern transplant from Kalamazoo, Michigan, Elless made her Broadway debut in 2012 in the most recent revival of Godspell, wasting no time after having graduated from Western Michigan University. Impressively, Godspell was Elless’ first ever Broadway audition, with the experimental musical snatching her up fresh off the national tour of Mamma Mia! Post-Godspell, Elless stepped into another unique theatrical experience, The Other Josh Cohen, bringing to life a bevy of different characters in the musical comedy’s 2014 run at the Papermill Playhouse. 

In both Godspell and Josh Cohen, Elless pulled triple duty, acting, singing, and accompanying herself on varying instruments because she’s well-versed in six different instruments. (Yes, you read that correctly.) And yet, as if being a bona fide quadruple threat weren’t enough, Elless is so much more than just the personification of raw talent. In fact, in addition to acting, she studied earth sciences in college, perhaps explaining the ease and authenticity with which she is able to portray Margo’s intellect in Bright Star.

Elless’ talents are not confined to the stage, though; she has a number of credits on screens big and small including The Lake Effect, Before Winter, and the soon-to-be-released film When Mary Met Ally. She also appeared on the smash-hit television series Glee

Though we do have to bid adieu to Bright Star, there’s no need to cry over dirty biscuits. Not only can you enjoy the stunning Bright Star cast recording anytime (which, for many, has been on an unrelenting loop since April), but Elless is also currently working on her own EP, meaning there will be a plethora of her dulcet versatility available any time. If that alone isn’t proof enough that the sun is gonna shine again, frankly, nothing is. 

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