The Reviews for Bridges of Madison County are In…


The reviews for Bridges of Madison County are in, and lovers of romance can rejoice! The new musical, based on the 1992 bestseller by Robert James Waller, is every bit as heart-melting and tear-inducing as the 1995 film starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood.  Though the story is well-known to most, the strong performances by stars Kelli O’Hara (Francesca) and Steven Pasquale (Robert) make the drama seem fresh and brand new.  The diverse, operatic score by the acclaimed Jason Robert Brown is beautiful and engaging, transporting audiences to the corn fields of Iowa and enveloping all in the emotion of the leading lovers.  If there’s one complaint, it’s that Marsha Norman’s script doesn’t quite match the rest of the glory on stage.  It makes little difference, though — those seeking warmth on a cold NYC evening would do well to catch Bridges of Madison County.


““Iowa.” When Kelli O’Hara sings that word, a plain place name becomes a prism of rippling ambivalence. Portraying an Italian war bride transplanted to the middle of America, Ms. O’Hara finds a breathtaking sweep of feelings within the iteration of those three small syllables. “Iowa,” she sings, in the number that begins the new musical The Bridges of Madison County, and you hear both the heady hope of liberation and the hopeless acceptance of captivity. And suddenly, Madison County starts to seem like a far more exciting place to visit than you might have imagined.”

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“My eyes rolled a bit, I must confess, at the prospect of a Broadway musical based on Robert James Waller’s sentimental 1992 bestseller, The Bridges of Madison County (which also inspired a 1995 film with Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood). But I must also admit that those same jaded eyes, by the end of the show, had misted up more than once; and judging from the waves of muffled sniffles around me, this was not an uncommon response. Marsha Norman and Jason Robert Brown’s adaptation earns those tears. The musical’s emotion is unapologetically grand, and its love duets have a wide, old-fashioned scope. Directed with spare precision by Bartlett Sher—reunited with his most of his South Pacific design team­—it’s a new work that plays like a classic.”

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“The engaging new musical The Bridges of Madison County, now open at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, left me wondering two things. First: Can Kelli O’Hara do anything? And second: Are we so starved for affection we’re willing to give over our hearts to a story that is — sorry, folks! — utterly preposterous? Even after swooning over the book? And sighing over the movie? The answers: Indeed, Kelli O’Hara can do anything, darn near perfectly, including transform herself into a chestnut-haired Italian beauty who, for the better part of two decades, has assumed the role of an Iowa housewife. And, apparently … yes. We are suckers for a good love story, no matter the form, and even when it’s likely we recall the outcome.”

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“How do you solve a problem like Francesca, the seemingly virtuous woman who embarks on a torrid affair with a traveling photographer in The Bridges of Madison County? How do you maintain sympathy for an adulterous Italian war bride who finds herself in an Iowa farmhouse in 1965 with a well-meaning former G.I. and two teenage kids? If you’re a movie studio, you cast Meryl Streep and let her work her magic. If you’re a Broadway producer turning Robert James Waller’s best-selling novel into a stage musical, you hire the honey-voiced Kelli O’Hara, who has a credible Italian accent, a feet-on-the-ground maturity, and hints of the footloose ingenue she was playing on stage only a few years ago.”

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The Bridges of Madison County is a ravishingly beautiful musical play based on the phenomenally popular 1992 weeper about a four-day love affair between an Iowa farm wife from Italy and a worldly photographer. In other words, this is unblushing Harlequin Romance-style material bound in top-quality leather. So many intelligent, gifted artists are involved in this adaptation that we wish the objective were deeper than a high-toned bodice ripper with comic-relief detours into conventional Broadway. But Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale, magnificently magnetic as Francesca and Robert, make the ripping feel like real heartbreak. And director Bartlett Sher and his creative team from South Pacific are storytellers who understand the luscious power of simplicity.”

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