Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Bridges of Madison County ***

If you found the novel by Robert James Walker or the movie with Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep too treacly, you were probably planning to take a pass on the musical version, now in previews, with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown and a book by Marsha Norman. That would be a shame, because you would miss seeing two of our finest musical theater talents, Kelli O'Hara as Francesca and Stephen Pasquale as Robert, both in top form; their chemistry together is absolutely sizzling (which you might not have expected after their previous outing, "Far from Heaven"). Add a beautiful score by Brown, an excellent set by Michael Yeargan, attractively appropriate costumes by Catherine Zuber, evocative lighting by Donald Holder and sensitive direction by Bartlett Sher, and you end up with a lot to admire. Norman's book has its ups and downs. She has opened the story up with more time given to Francesca's family and neighbors and Robert's former wife. The addition of the neighbor couple, Marge and Charlie, works out fine because they are played by two fine actors, Cass Morgan and Michael X. Martin. I would have preferred omitting Francesca's sister and Robert's ex, especially since the show could use some trimming. For me, its flaws were far outweighed by its strengths. I would overlook a lot to catch O'Hara and Pasquale together onstage. Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes, including intermission.

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