Most probably the finest new musical to hit Broadway in some time, THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY is a superb production. Such care has been taken to bring to the stage a project that started out as a phenomenal best seller by Robert James Waller and then a revered movie starring Meryl Streep and Clint Walker. How do you top that?
Well, the creative team behind BRIDGES led by the visionary director Bartlett Sher has done just that – a formidable task that is expertly executed. The score by Jason Robert Brown is fantastic. He has also done the beautiful orchestrations as well, that we are able to savor due to the fine sound design by Jon Weston. Sometimes quiet. Sometimes soaring. Sometimes reminiscent of the MGM musicals of yore.
With a lump in your throat, tears in your eyes, and an ache in your heart the weekend long love affair of Francesca (an incandescent Kelli O’Hara) and Robert Kincaid (Steven Pasquale – who is both masculine and sensitive with quietly majestic vocals that match those of Ms. O’Hara) unfolds on an airy set by Michael Yeargan – that serves its many purposes extremely well with a luminous lighting design by Donald Holder.
Set in 1965 Iowa, Francesca has been married to Bud for eighteen years. She was a war bride. In Naples she was to marry Paolo but he never returned from the war. She met Bud and married him hoping for a better fulfilled life. Two rebellious teen age children and one cow later she is questioning her life. She is ripe for something exciting to happen in her hum drum life. Bud and the kids and the cow go off to the State Fair – leaving her alone for a weekend that will forever change her life.
Robert Kincaid, a photographer for National Geographic – a loner – has been assigned to photograph the famous Bridges of Madison County and finds himself asking Francesca for directions in a chance meeting that will change his life as well. Their relationship starts off slowly and then smolders and then catches fire as they discover that they are soul mates – remembering how it is to feel wonderful again.
Beautifully and fluidly staged by Mr. Sher we become totally involved in their love story. Her husband (a terrific Hunter Foster) keeps checking in by phone and her neighbors keep watching the goings on through binoculars – Charlie (Michael X. Martin) and Marge (Cass Morgan) – supplying much of the humor in the book by Marsha Norman. Each has a show stopping song: “When I’m Gone” for Charlie and “Get Closer” for Marge.
But it is the incredibly moving performances of Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale that will forever be etched in your mind to remember and relive the wonders of falling in love with their heart pounding emotions that are echoed by the lush orchestrations that soar to the last row of the balcony of the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre where THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY will hopefully touch many a theatergoer for a long time.
If you loved ONCE you will fall in love all over again with BRIDGES.
Photos: Joan Marcus
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