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Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale Star in "The Bridges of Madison County" at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
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Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale Star in "The Bridges of Madison County" at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights
Ariston Flowers
110 West 17th Street,
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Jeffrey Richards, Stacey Mindich, Jerry Frankel,
in association with Williamstown Theatre Festival
et al.

Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale
The Bridges of Madison County
A New Musical
(Bridges of Madison County Website)

Book by Marsha Norman
Music & Lyrics by Jason Robert Brown
Based on the Novel by Robert James Waller

Directed by Bartlett Sher

Hunter Foster, Michael X. Martin, Cass Morgan
Caitlin Kinnunen, Derek Klena, Whitney Bashor

And an ensemble of ten actors/singers/dancers

Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
236 West 45th Street

Movement by Danny Mefford
Music Director: Tom Murray

Scenic Design: Michael Yeargan
Costume Design: Catherine Zuber
Lighting Design: Donald Holder
Sound Design: Jon Weston
Hair & Wig Design: David Brian Brown
Orchestrations: Jason Robert Brown
Casting: Telsey + Company/Abbie Brady Dalton, CSA
Music Coordinator: Michael Keller
Advertising: Serino/Coyne
Technical Supervisor: Hudson Theatrical Productions
Press: Irene Gandy/Alana Karpoff
Thomas Raynor/Christopher Pineda
Props: Kathy Fabian
Assoc. Producers: Steven Strauss
Michael Crea, PJ Miller
Production Stage Manager: Jennifer Rae Moore
Company Manager: Katrina Elliott
General Manager: 101 Productions, Ltd.

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 6, 2014

There’s one scene in Marsha Norman and Jason Robert Brown’s new musical, The Bridges of Madison County, when I wanted time to stand still. No surprise, it was the intimate, star and moonlit bedroom scene between Francesca (Kelli O’Hara) and Robert (Steven Pasquale). Francesca is a middle aged Italian war bride, transplanted to her husband’s farm in Winterset, Iowa, and Robert is a renowned National Geographic photographer, who came to town, amidst its windswept scenes, lush sunsets, and cornfields, to photograph its historic covered bridges. This is an uncluttered tale, adapted from Robert James Waller’s novel of the same title, a story of serendipitous passion, unleashed for a brief, memorable affair, which, inevitably, if acted upon, would create irreparable havoc. The audience is in on the musical’s book, which was made into a popular 1995 film, but you deeply root for this entangled couple, especially since they sing so eloquently of their longing and desire, and especially since they’re both so gorgeous together on that uncluttered stage, that shifts so rapidly from farm kitchen to bedroom, with a brief view of a bubble bath, as Francesca scrubs away Iowa and transforms into an Italian lover. We are the only witnesses of her metamorphosis.

Ms. Norman’s book not only lingers on the starlit night of passion, but it lingers on the Italian dinner Francesca prepares for Robert, after he stops for directions, seeing Francesca on the porch, while Bud, Francesca’s husband (Hunter Foster), and Carolyn (Caitlin Kinnunen) and Michael (Derek Klena), her combustible teenagers, are at an out of town State fair. Ms. Norman also lingers on Mr. Brown’s solo numbers, as Francesca (“Almost Real”) and Robert (“It All Fades Away”) pine for each other in spotlighted anguish. Mr. Foster’s musical numbers are poignant (“Something From a Dream”), but shallow, compared to the sensuality sprung from the well of ardor in Robert and Francesca’s solos and duos (“Falling Into You”). The weight of 1965 morality in small town Iowa, with Michael Yeargan’s streamlined, minimalist set, that allows neighbors to sit almost at Francesca’s windows and door, has its way, although minimally, I might add. Marge (Cass Morgan), sees and assumes all, but never once mentions the words. When Bud and the children return from the fair, Marge brings a basket of dinner for Francesca, to fill the empty table. Marge’s relationship with her own husband, Charlie (Michael X. Martin), has some witty banter and comedic pathos.

Bartlett Sher has directed for pregnant pauses and the stillness of silence, creating scintillating moments that replay in the mind. Jason Robert Brown’s music may not replay as the visuals do, but, in the moment, they ring with lovely melodic warmth. Danny Mefford designed “movement”, as the stage has too many beams and posts that lift and reconfigure, for dancing to ensue. The visual ensemble groupings, as they remain at corners and stage side, are of a Greek chorus, watching and waiting. Catherine Zuber’s costumes enable Francesca’s Cinderella-fashioned outfit transformation, from aproned matronly to form-fitting silky. Donald Holder’s lighting and Jon Weston’s sound were both intrinsic to the sublimity and surreal-ness of this show. Tom Murray, Music Director, kept the orchestra vibrant, with sultry strings and gentle guitars. This is a show I’d be happy to visit again.

Kelli O'Hara and Steven Pasquale
in "The Bridges of Madison County"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at