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Bridges of Madison County

Bridges of Madison County

On Broadway

To begin, Kelli O’Hara, one of the reigning queens of Broadway, is enchanting as Francesca, an Italian woman who marries an American serviceman after World War II in order to escape the poverty and despair of Naples. Her voice is gloriously matched to Brown’s delicious score and she and co-star Steve Pasquale enjoy an onstage chemistry that is alternately comfortable and steamy.

Francesca is living the dreary but loving life of an Iowa farmwife when a National Geographic photographer arrives to photograph local covered bridges, just after Francesca’s husband and children have departed for a few days at the state fair. This man stops by her farm for directions, and a torrid romance ensues. She is tempted to run off with this man, the grand passion of her life, but when the family returns, she falls back into ordinary domesticity.

Among the elements that I found most intriguing in the musical are the characters who surround the central romance.

Francesca’s loving but dispassionate husband is played with uncommon restraint by Hunter Foster as a man who could only have evoked a sense of romance and mystery while still in his military uniform. He is not Rhett Butler, but his love is steady, making Francesca’s decisions difficult and complicated.

The seemingly intrusive neighbor, played with exquisite humanity and sensitivity by Cass Morgan, turns out to be a sincere and loyal friend. Through an unspoken but understood bond between Iowa housewives, she arrives to rescue her friend and neighbor repeatedly.

Francesca’s sister appears in letters as a foil and cautionary example, highlighting the difficulty of the choices we all must make.

In the final analysis, the show is gorgeously romantic and will tug at the sense of romance and the risks not taken, probably wisely, by most of us.