In 1992, THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY, hit book shelves and was an instant success. It was then adapted into a movie in 1995, boasting stars, Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood. Broadway has now taken the piece and re-created it for the stage with a book by Marsha Norman and music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown.
Set in a small town in Iowa, we meet war bride, Francesca and her family. When her husband and kids head out of town to the State Fair for the weekend, she is looking forward to a restful time alone until a National Geographic photographer shows up. Over the course of a few days, her life turns into a whirlwind and emotions run high.
Kelli O’Hara who plays Francesca sounds lovely and holds a strong, italian accent throughout the show. The only problem is, at times you don’t know what she is saying. During the opening song it was unclear as to what she was singing about but she sounded beautiful. Steven Pasquale who played Robert had a captivating and rich voice. During his second act number, it was as if my heart melted. I would be stunned if all the women in the audience weren’t in tears when he sang the lyrics “It all fades away to you”. Derek Klena who played the son, Michael, is a highly talented young man. His voice is incredible and he is a great actor. However, in this show he was not utilized nearly enough and you would never know how talented he truly is. My vote, swap out the ex wife’s song (which served little purpose) and give Derek a solo.
When walking into the theater, the set was underwhelming to say the least. Once the show got off the ground, ensemble members moved props and set pieces around. After awhile it seemed as though they were just there to work as stage hands and hum a few tunes every so often. Might as well scale the cast back to a handful of people. When the “bridge” was lowered from the rafters it took me a few minutes to actually realize what it symbolized. It looked as though high school students had hammered a few planks of wood together and painted it dark brown. If the show is about a beautiful bridge, I would have liked to be somewhat impressed by something that resembled one.
Jason Robert Brown is a composer I highly admire. Although this show is not my favorite, there were some songs that were gems. I appreciate that he is constantly trying new things. Many of the songs sounded too similar and blended together. However, there were at least three that stood out and will surely be used by actors in showcases and to audition with.
If one Jason Robert Brown musical should be on Broadway this season, I would swap this show out for HONEYMOON IN VEGAS which opened at Paper Mill Playhouse this fall and was much more of a hit. THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY was fine but my prediction is it won’t last long. There isn’t enough substance to make for a noteworthy musical.
Rating: That Is The Question
For more information on the show: http://bridgesofmadisoncountymusical.com/