By: Sandi Durell




I was wondering, after a book and a movie, how a Broadway musical can capture the hearts and souls of Francesca and Robert’s romance and 4 day love affair.  I must admit I never did finish the book (too sappy for me), nor did I see the movie. But Jason Robert Brown (Tony Award winning composer – The Last Five Years, Parade) seems to have definitively managed to capture the essence of this torrid love affair in his musical renderings that bring a stifled immigrant woman and a wandering sensitive National Geographic photographer together. The music is, in one word . . . grand!  Each song tells a story of the stirrings of Italian war bride Francesca (the exceptional Kelli O’Hara) and sexy Robert (good looking Steven Pasquale).

imageWith a script by Marsha Norman, this is an emotional roller coaster ride of a 1960s love affair in, of all places, the Iowa plains when Robert Kincaid drives his truck up a driveway to ask for directions to a covered bridge which he is to photograph.  Francesca is a farmer’s wife and her husband Bud (well played twangy Hunter Foster) and their two somewhat annoying kids (who look older than they should), Carolyn (Caitlin Kinnunen) and Michael (Derek Klena), have gone off in their trailer to the State Fair with their prized steer, leaving Francesca alone.

In Bartlett Sher’s directorial hands, this becomes a luscious Harlequin-esque sizzler of a romance.  The nosy neighbors led by Marge (Cass Morgan) and Charlie (Michael X. Martin) along with the other cast members serve to move sparse scenery (Michael Yeargan) on and off the stage – fences, planks for the bridge, a kitchen, tables & chairs, doorways – as the scenes change and they sit on the sidelines looking in.

Scenes beget memories as actors insert themselves into the present (“Another Life” –Whitney Bashor plays Marian – Robert’s former wife).

Comic relief comes in the form of “Get Closer” as Marge and singers do the nosy neighbor thing. And you will thrill to musical numbers “Falling Into You” and Act II’s “Before and After You/One Second & a Million Miles” – highlight songs between O’Hara and Pasquale.  Pasquale’s solo “It All Fades Away” is brilliantly delivered, his vocals soaring. To try and say anything more about the perfect vocals of Kelli O’Hara would be redundant. The true star, however, is the exceptional music and lyrics of Jason Robert Brown.

Donald Holder’s subtle lighting brings glorious color tonality; Catherine Zuber’s costumes fit the simplicity of the time.

Yes, this is one of those musicals that will tear at your heart-strings and mist up your eyes as heart and longing must take second place.

*Photos: Joan Marcus

“The Bridges of Madison County”, Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 W. 45 St.

212 239-6200

(Meet/Greet the cast pre show video and interviews)