The Bridges of Madison County on Broadway
A Review by Marivir Montebon
New York — Beyond the magnificent voices and acting of Kelli O’Hara (as Francesca) and Steven Pasquale (as Robert), the story of the Bridges of Madison County on Broadway (on Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre 236 West 45th Street, NYC) rests on the stereotypical definition of a woman as a mother and wife. It is a timeless theme, where the unity of a family rests on the strength of the woman. Hence, The Bridges will likely remain a popular favorite for a long time.
Set in 1965 in Winterset, Iowa, we see the life of an immigrant woman Francesca, from Naples, who marries WW II veteran Bud (Hunter Foster) and builds a family with two children in a farm land. Life for Francesca inevitably became boring. She lost her dreams to marriage and motherhood.
The Broadway musical proved to be far better than the movie adaptation which starred Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood because it showed the bigger picture of family and community life of Francesca. Kudos to writers Marsha Norman and Jason Robert Brown.
Robert Kincaid, the well-travelled photographer for the National Geographic, ignited Francesca’s dreams and sexual passions. The four intense days of spontaneous chemistry may have led to a change of her world, if she ran away with Robert.
The novelist Robert James Waller chose that Francesca decides to be with her family. She has remained to be the nurturing mother and submissive wife that she is until she died. She lived a sacrificing, melancholic life, portrayed as more of a self-inflicted painful decision than a cultural imposition.
The Bridges does not emancipate Francesca in the end. If she chose to follow her dreams and run away with Robert, the story would have taken an interesting twist. She could either be happy or more miserable. In any case, it would have vindicated the woman to make a decision for her life.
In all its technical aspect, The Bridges on Broadway is excellent. Music director Tom Murray’s composition and orchestration was the soul of the musical. Director Bartlett Sher puts it all together – acting, lights, choreography – brilliantly, that one would tend to forget that story spoke of dreams that had to be sacrificed.