The Bridges of Madison County – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

Music Theatre of Connecticut is celebrating its 31st season with a bittersweet tale of love and longing. Twenty five years ago. Robert James Waller wrote a novel about a lonely woman who, although married with a family, felt something missing in her sensitive soul. Her accidental meeting with a National Geographic photographer from the state of Washington changes her life forever. He is in Madison County, Iowa doing a photographic essay on the covered bridges in the area. Their relationship sparks flames of kinship and love.

Recently the novel was adapted into a new musical, “The Bridges of Madison County,” with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown and book by Marsha Norman, and MTC is giving it a lovely airing until Sunday, November 19. A film had also been made starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood.

Juliet Lambert Pratt is the searching for love and fulfillment Francesca who sings her heart out with a rich and vibrant poignancy that will almost bring you to tears while Sean Hayden’s Robert Kincaid is the handsome stranger who invades her quiet life and churns it into glorious possibilities.

Greg Roderick plays Bud Johnson, Francesca’s husband, the staid and serious man who cares deeply for his family. Now he is traveling with his kids Carolyn (Megan O’Callaghan) and Michael (Matt Grasso) to the Indiana State Fair for three days to show Carolyn’s steer Stevie in the hopes of winning a blue ribbon in the 4H National Finals. Mia Scarpa plays assorted females in the storyline.

Eighteen years before, Bud had been a soldier in the Army, stationed in Italy, where he met Francesca. She was still reeling from the death of her fiance and she clung to Bud, as her chance for a new life. While Francesca has security, a loving family and good neighbors like Marge (Kirsti Carnahan) and Charlie (Frank Mastrone ), she knows something is lacking in her life in the level and plain Iowa corn fields.

When Robert Kinciad walks into her world, with an air of mystery and adventure, of danger and of caring, Francesca is faced with a momentous decision. Can she leave what she knows and holds dear, her husband and children? Can she grab the gold ring on Robert’s merry-go-round that is so tempting? Kevin Connors directs this wonderfully schmaltz story of longing and fulfillment, devotion and promise, on an interesting road map set designed by Jordan Janota. Michael Biagys’ lighting sheds emotion at every turn.

Songs like “Falling Into You” and “Before and After You/One Second and a Million Miles” soar with emotion, with almost operatic intensity.

The musicians play on stage, adding to the poignancy of the story, piano/conductor Nolan Bonvouloir, cello Susan Jiminez, violin Jennifer Brown and guitar Michael Mosca.
For tickets ($30-55), call MTC, 509 Westport Avenue, Norwalk, (behind Nine West Shoes) at 203-454-3883 or online at Performances are Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

A lifetime of love is captured in a few days of wonderfully intense desire as a chance encounter has far-reaching consequences and an incredible sweetness.

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