Ron Bright was the beloved master of Broadway musical classics
“To love another person is to see the face of God.”
That Victor Hugo epiteth, from his “Les Miserables” novel and fondly encased in the beloved stage musical that Ronald E. Bright directed two years ago, sums up Mr. B’s legacy.
God, he loved people and adored musicals. When Mr. B (as his extended ohana of loyalist actors called him) directed “Les Miz” at Paliku Theatre, it was a lifetime dream come true. Since his retirement from Castle High School, where he founded the Castle Performing Arts Company, he started to conquer his favorite Broadway biggies: “Miss Saigon” and “Phantom of the Opera.” “Les Miz” was the elusive one that he wanted to complete his bucket list.
I remember taking in two “Les Miz” rehearsals, chatting with cast members and with Mr. B. He was like a kid in a candy store, bursting with glee.
Mr. B died Tuesday at Castle Hospital at age 81. He had been battling vasculitous, a condition that affects the blood and the immune system, according to a source close to the family
His passing is a tremendous loss to the theater community.
I recall how he brought up that “Les Miz” line, saying Hugo “wasn’t must being poetic. He wrapped his life in support of the common man.”
To work in a Bright musical is to experience the joy of theater. He was the master of the class — a school teacher who originally staged musicals at Benjamin Parker Elementary School’s cafetorium, expanding his posture and setting roots with high school thespians in the Castle High School theater that was named in 1994 for him.
He steered many troubled youths into theater, changing their lives for the better, making wrongs into rights; he influenced wannabe actors to pursue their dreams, with a you-can-do-it-if-you-believe-in-yourself, so the list of Castle production alums have been dotting Broadway stages and traveling in legit national tours. Truly, he was God-like, a figure of inspiration and humanity, and literally a Bright light in the stage community.
Understandably, the family has requested privacy at this time, issuing a statement that said “We are saddened to report that our father, Ronald E. Bright, has passed away today,” his children — Clarke Bright, Jodi Bright Stein and Michael Bright — said in a statement. “On behalf of his entire ohana, we kindly request that our privacy be respected during this very difficult time.”
Clarke Bright, always in the orchestra pit in a Bright musical, currently is director of the Royal Hawaiian Band; Michael Bright and his Castle cohort Cliffton Hall, have performed on Broadway in “Miss Saigon” and all were involved in the monumental “Les Miz” at Paliku.
Besides grandchildren, Mr. B is survived by his wife Mo (Moira), who was his lieutenant in command at all of his productions.
Services are pending.
Though Bright had been fragile and ill for the past few weeks, he did make a brief appearance at a fall musical revue he was to direct at Paliku. That production now may be tabled and replaced with a musical tribute saluting and remembering Mr. B’s legacy.
Bright was particularly proud of his 50-member “Les Miz” cast and the iconic show that is a tapestry of song, dance and sweeping emotions at the time of the French revolution. Its themes of faith, war, guilt, freedom, romance, heartbreak, patriotism and honor were elements of everyday life. "We have gathered the best cast and crew I’ve ever worked with in my entire career,” he said then of his performers. His enthusiasm and creed enveloped his company — typical of his m.o. in any show he did.
We'll miss you and your shows, Mr. B, but we'll cherish the memories you've provided over the decades.