I’ve read The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller. I’ve also seen the film with Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood. I remember the sense of longing between the two major characters and how I felt reading and watching their story and I wondered how their story would translate to the stage.
I can honestly say that I was riveted from the moment the curtain rose. Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale make an extraordinary pair playing the couple whose chance encounter becomes a potential second chance in life. Knowing the outcome did slightly dampen my expectation of the ending as I would have rather not been able to predict whether they ended up together after two hours of intimacy and passion – the kind that is electrifying to any witnessing audience member. But I felt happy with the way the director and producers chose to end the play.
O’Hara, who I loved in both South Pacific and Light in the Piazza, is lovely as Francesca Johnson, an Italian war bride spending a few days on her own at home in Iowa in the 1960s. She’s a stay-at-home mom happy for a rest from her teenage children and husband, all of whom she seems to have outgrown. We aren’t sure if she’s truly unhappy at first, or just tired. When O’Hara sings, you listen, and from the beginning of the show, you know she has a story to tell. Her story is about to be 3 mere days of her life, when Robert Kincaid, a National Geographic photographer who has come to town to shoot images of Iowa’s famous bridges comes to town and sweeps her into his arms. Their affair is short-lived, but magical.
I don’t think I expected the music to be as good as it is. James Robert Brown,the show’s composer, created music that really expresses her disenchantment with love but strong connection to family and the land she’s been living on. O’Hara’s soprano and Pasquale’s tenor carry us through the moment with grace, splendor and passion. The supporting characters are interesting, especially Cass Morgan who plays Francesca’s busy body friend.
The production isn’t perfect – some of the actors are older than their characters (her children, in particular) and I didn’t like how the actors were sat on the side of the stage all through the show (this isn’t Once) nonetheless it’s true escapism and The Bridges of Madison County will whisk you away for an evening (or matinee) and I’m thrilled to be giving away two tickets!
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Disclosure: I was not compensated to write this post, however I received a pair of tickets to facilitate this review.