MOMS DAY OUT: BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY: Show Review by Robin Gorman Newman
The Bridges of Madison County, the new Broadway tearjerker musical by the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning team of Marsha Norman (‘night Mother, The Color Purple) and Jason Robert Brown (The Last Five Years, Parade) Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre (236 West 45th Street) and opened February 20th at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre (236 West 45th Street).
Four-time Tony® nominee Kelli O’Hara stars with Steven Pasquale, and it’s directed by two-time Tony winner Bartlett Sher, (South Pacific, The Light in the Piazza)
Based on the best-selling novel by Robert James Waller, The Bridges of Madison County is the story of two unexpected lovers caught up in a web of desire that leads both to question their chosen path in life and what’s important at the end of the road.
Francesa (O’Hara), an Iowa farm wife of Italian descent (who misses her native Naples), plans for some home alone time as her husband and kids take off for the state fair with their prize steer, but the universe has other things in mind. Robert (Pasquale), a rugged, single, world-traveling photographer who blows through town to shoot the famed local covered bridges, needs directions. One thing leads to the next, and they find in each other what neither thought was romantically possible. He ultimately invites her to leave town with him, but when her husband and family return, she can’t bring herself to trade in her apron strings for true love.
O’Hara and Pasquale ignite the stage. In Act II, the melange “Before and After You/One Second & a Million Miles” sent tingles up my spine. Their passion is palpable, and we silently cheer for them, though we know the outcome. Brown’s score is stunning, and O’Hara and Pasquale are at the top of their game capturing the beauty and emotion.
Norman’s book is both smart and witty…she’s included an amusing set of neighbors who pop up and help fill out the original story, which is really rather slight. The tale is also nicely fleshed out with backstory of Robert and Francesca, so we better understand how they met their spouses (Robert is divorced) and what has brought them to this place in time.
When Francesca goes into town for ice cream with her husband and kids, once they return from the fair, she sees Robert across the square and runs into his arms, as we’d wish she would….but then reality kicks in….and when the moment plays over, she’s caught in in present day with her feuding kids and husband and not going anywhere. She’s made her choice. Responsibility before romance. The audience tears up.
The Bridges of Madison County is riveting escapism and a beautiful theatrical experience. If you’re a mom yearning for a break from the everyday, this musical will capture your heart.
KELLI O’HARA (Francesca Johnson).Broadway: Nice Work If You Can Get It (Tony, Drama Desk, Drama League, OCC Nom), South Pacific (Tony, Drama Desk & OCC Nominations), Pajama Game (Tony, Drama Desk, OCC Nominations), The Light in the Piazza (Tony & Drama Desk Nominations), Sweet Smell of Success, Follies, Dracula and Jekyll & Hyde. Regional/Off Broadway: Far From Heaven (Playwrights Horizons and WTF), King Lear (Public Theater), Bells Are Ringing (City Center Encores), Sunday in the Park with George (Reprise), My Life With Albertine (Playwright’s Horizons). Concerts span from Carnegie Hall to Capitol Hill. Film/TV credits: Sex & The City 2, Scorsese’s The Key to Reserva, “Blue Bloods,” “Alexander Hamilton,” “Numb3rs” and the animated series “Car Talk.” She is a frequent performer on PBS’s live telecasts and the Kennedy Center Honors. Her solo albums, Always and Wonder in the World are available on Ghostlight Records.
STEVEN PASQUALE (Robert Kincaid) is thrilled to be making his Broadway musical debut in The Bridges Of Madison County. Broadway: reasons to be pretty (Tony nomination – Best Play) Off Broadway: Far From Heaven (Playwrights Horizons), Tony Kushner’s The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism… (Public) Soldier’s Play (Second Stage), Fat Pig (MCC), A Man of No Importance (LCT, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle nominations), Beautiful Child (Vineyard), Spitfire Grill (Playwrights Horizons), Spinning Into Butter (LCT), Wild Party (MTC). Originated the role of Fabrizio in Adam Guettel’s The Light in the Piazza. Film/TV includes “Rescue Me,” “Six Feet Under,” “Alien vs. Predator: Requiem”, “Platinum”, “Aurora Borealis”, “Up All Night,” “Marry Me, “Coma,” “Do No Harm,” and the USA pilot “Over/Under”. His debut solo album, “Somethin’ Like Love,” is available on PS Classics.