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Review: The Bridges of Madison County

March 19th, 2014 Comments off

Broadway Blog editor Matthew Wexler soars across the Midwestern plains of Iowa, courtesy of The Bridges of Madison County.

Kelli O'Hara and Steven Pasquale in "The Bridges of Madison County" (photo: Joan Marcus) via The Broadway Blog.

Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale in “The Bridges of Madison County” (photo: Joan Marcus) via The Broadway Blog.

The flat plains of Winterset, Iowa are the backdrop for The Bridges of Madison County, a sweeping yet subtle new musical new playing at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on Broadway. Adapted for the stage by Jason Robert Brown (music and lyrics) and Marsha Norman (book) from the best-selling novel by Robert James Waller, it is a tale of love lost, love found, and love released.

Robert (played by Steven Pasquale), a photographer for National Geographic, finds himself lost trying to find a specific covered bridge for the magazine’s photo shoot and stumbles across Francesca (played by Kelli O’Hara)—a disenchanted housewife whose family has traveled to the Indiana State Fair. While it may not be love at first sight, it arrives shortly thereafter and the two find themselves enraptured in a four-day love affair that changes their lives forever.

Kelli O'Hara and Steven Pasquale in "The Bridges of Madison County" (via The Broadway Blog).

Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale in “The Bridges of Madison County” (via The Broadway Blog).

While not heavy on external plot or conflict, Marsha Norman’s lean book drives the story forward while Jason Robert Brown delivers an emotionally resonant score with sweeping melodies, flecks of Francesca’s Italian roots, and subtle musical references of the era. But it is director Bartlett Sher, (South Pacific, The Light in the Piazza, and this season’s Two Boys at the Met) who gently cradles the material and creates a seamlessly shifting world that transcends time and locale.

In the spirit of Our Town and the Lars von Trier film Dogville, the ensemble is all hands on deck, shifting furniture, fences, doorways, tables, and even the kitchen sink… literally. Their watchful eyes observe Francesca and Robert’s love affair unfold. There is undoubtedly judgment in those stares, but that is left to the audience’s imagination.

At the epicenter of the action, O’Hara and Pasquale conjure up a believable attraction, but what each of them is attracted to is unclear. Beyond the physical lust, it’s hard to say what draws these two together. As Francesca, O’Hara emits a melancholy sadness as well as a self-knowing dark humor. While her vocal quality feels foggy at times set against Jason Robert Brown’s pop-melodic score, her journey tugs at anyone who has questioned their own happiness. Steven Pasquale, making his Broadway musical debut as Robert, delivers a performance of subtle humility yet aching desire. His bari-tenor voice fits snuggly in the pocket of Brown’s music as he richly delivers the 11 o’clock number, “It All Fades Away.”

Hunter Foster as Francesca’s husband, Bud, is dealt a short hand both in terms of storytelling and music, but he makes the most of it and finds humanity and humor in the man who can’t seem to retain Francesca’s love. And in a beautifully staged sequence, Whitney Bashor (Broadway debut) as Robert’s ex-wife Marian, channels Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez in flashback scene that, while not necessarily plot-driving, is a splash of watercolor on an evolving canvas.

Jason Robert Brown continues to establish himself as one of the great Broadway composers and orchestrators of the 21st century. The Bridges of Madison County is a testament to his evolution as an artist. Keep an eye out for the film version of his off Broadway hit, The Last Five Years, and his next Broadway show, Honeymoon in Vegas, arriving on Broadway this fall.

The Bridges of Madison County
Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
236 West 45th Street
Open-ended run

Three to See: February

February 3rd, 2014 Comments off

 

"The Bridges of Madison County"

“The Bridges of Madison County”

The Bridges of Madison County
If you’re looking for a lush, romantic Broadway musical, the Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning team of Marsha Norman and Jason Robert Brown hope to score big with The Bridges of Madison County. Directed by Barltett Sher (South Pacific) and starring

Four-time Tony nominee Kelli O’Hara (Nice Work If You Can Get It, The Light in the Piazza) and Steven Pasquale (“Rescue Me”, reasons to be pretty), star in the soaring tale of romance and lost love takes place on the plains of the Iowa landscape circa 1965.

The Bridges of Madison County
Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
236 West 45th Street
www.bridgesofmadisoncountymusical.com

Take a sneak peek…

Kung Fu

Cole Horibe stars in David Henry Hwang's new play, "Kung Fu." (photo: Gregory Costanzo)

Cole Horibe stars in David Henry Hwang’s new play, “Kung Fu.”
(photo: Gregory Costanzo)

Incorporating dance and music into an exciting new form, Cole Horibe (“So You Think You Can Dance”) takes on the iconic role of real-life Bruce Lee, a young martial artist who comes to America from Hong Kong in the 1960’s with a dream as audacious as his talent: to become the biggest movie star in the world. To do so, he must struggle to overcome the West’s view of China as weak and backwards, and of Asian men as less than truly masculine.

The world premiere play by David Henry Hwang and directed by Leigh Silverman has created so much buzz that the production has already been extended. Also keep your eye out for choreography by Sonya Tayeh. 

Kung Fu
The Irene Diamond Stage at The Pershing Square Signature Center 480 West 42nd Street
Through March 30.
www.signaturetheatre.org

 

pageantPageant – The Musical Comedy Beauty Contest
Returning for the first time to the New York stage in more than twenty years, Pageant features contestants desperately vying for a glittering tiara. With swimsuit, talent, and evening gown competitions – the show includes both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat! Unlike some beauty pageants you’ve seen before, the female contestants are all played by men. And the audience gets to select the winner each night.

Fifty percent of ticket sales benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, one of the nation’s leading industry-based, nonprofit AIDS fundraising and grant-making organizations. By drawing upon the talents, resources and generosity of the American theatre community, since 1988 BC/EFA has raised more than $250 million for essential services for people with AIDS and other critical illnesses across the United States.

Pageant
The Red Lacquer Club
240 West 52nd Street
Monday nights; February 3, 10, 17, 24

Take a peek at Pageant in rehearsal…