Offering a fresh way of helping you keep up with art and entertainment happenings around the Capital District.
Thursday, August 8, 2013
review Musical of Bridges of Madison County at WTF
Bridges of Madison County by Bob Goepfert
Mass. “The Bridges of Madison County,”
which is being given its world premiere at the Williamstown Theatre Festival through
August 18, is a musical that is often beautifully romantic. At other times the production boarders on the
tedious and cloyingly sentimental.
which is scheduled to open on Broadway in February of 2014, is based on the
novel by Robert James Waller, which was also the source of the Clint Eastwood
and Meryl Streep film. Both were so
popular there is probably a core audience that will automatically adore this musical
(like me) who find the material predictable and sometimes overwrought, will
find it difficult not to be moved by the gorgeous score of Jason Robert Brown
which defines characters and captures the emotional turmoil of two decent
individuals who unintentionally fall in love knowing their love is doomed.
is no denying the emotional pull of the story about a four day love affair that
touches lives forever. Anyone who has
ever been in a loving relationship that is destined to fail will understand the
heartbreak of the characters. And
because the love between Robert and Francesca is so sincere and honest, many
who have not had such an experience might feel they’ve been denied a
denying the inherent charm of the material, it is not a story that should take
three hours to tell. While there is
hardly a song that is not a pleasure to hear, the long expositional aspects of
the story tend to make Brown’s remarkable score seem repetitive. This is true mostly for the first act and a drawn
when the work focuses on the passion of the couple the music soars and the
story is tender and touching. The second
act duet “One Second More and a Million Miles” is breathtaking in its passion
and Francesca’s solo “Almost Real” is as character defining as it is beautiful
to hear. The same can be said for
Robert’s first act “The World Inside a Frame.”
Brown is not
only a great composer, he is a brilliant orchestrator and his lyrics create
lovely stories within a story. By the
way, the 9-piece pit orchestra, conducted by Tom Murray, is phenomenal as they
bring an added lushness to a rich score.
is gentle, smart and sexy as Robert the National Geographic photographer who
in1965 spends a couple of days in Madison County, Iowa to photograph their
covered bridges. He is an exceptional
actor with a dynamic singing voice who creates a finely etched portrayal of a
loner who surprises himself at the depth of his love for Francesca.
Marsha Norman version of the story, Francesca is the focus of the work. She is an Italian World War II war bride, who
lives a content life with a caring but dull husband (Daniel Jenkins) and two
constantly quarreling kids (Caitlin Kinnunen and Nick Bailey). Elena Shaddow is lovely as the woman who discovers the
dissatisfaction with her life and is courageous enough to grasp happiness and
noble enough to sacrifice it up out of love for her family.
One of the
strongest aspects of Norman’s book is the creation of Marge (Cass Morgan)and
Charlie (Michael X. Martin) the long-married, neighbors who are happy with
their simple existence. Having Morgan sing
“Get Closer” as Robert and Francesca physically draw closer is a genius idea
that defines the universality of longing.
cast is ideal but special mention should be given to Whitney Bashor who gives a
breakout performance singing the marvelous
“Another Life” as Robert’s former wife and the touching “He Forgave Me’ as
played on an awesome set designed by Michael Yeargan and period perfect
costumes by Catherine Zuber. The most
important technical success is the mood defining lighting by Donald Holder.
of Madison County” is an erratic and sometimes slow moving show but it is never
the fault of director Bartlett Sher who ingenuously keeps the movement fluid
and the focus of the show on the love between Francisca and Robert.
This is a superior
production that sometimes falls victim to the flaws of the source material.
of Madison County” through August 18 at the mainstage of Williamstown Theatre
Festival, Williamstown, Mass. Tickets
$65-$70. 413-597-3400, wtfestival.org