BWW Interviews - Debut of the Month: BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY's Whitney Bashor
Whitney Bashor is making her Broadway debut in the dual role of 'Marian/Chiara' in the new musical The Bridges of Madison County, which began previews Jan. 17, 2014 and opened officially on February 20th at Broadway's Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre.
Helmed by Tony Award-winning director Bartlett Sher (Golden Boy, South Pacific, The Light in the Piazza), the musical is based on Robert James Waller's 1992 novel, and features a score by Tony winner Jason Robert Brown (13, Parade, Songs for a New World) and a book by Tony and Pulitzer Prize winner Marsha Norman (The Secret Garden, Night Mother). The romantic musical follows a brief, four-day love affair between a National Geographic photographer (Steven Pasquale) and an Italian-American housewife (Kelli O'Hara) in 1965 Iowa.
Today Bashor speaks exclusively with BWW and explains how her co-stars Kelli O'Hara and Steven Pasquale went out of their way to make sure her Broadway debut was a big deal!
This is such a beautiful show and such a romantic story. Were you familiar with the 1995 film or the original novel?
Well, I remember seeing the movie many years ago. I'm a Meryl Streep fan so I kind of scout out anything that she is a part of. But it had been so long since I'd seen the movie when I got the audition that it felt very new and fresh.
You have the unique opportunity to portray two different characters in the show. As an actor, that must be an interesting challenge.
It's actually been a lovely process. I mean how fun is it to get to play two different characters in a show? And it's definitely been a growing experience, it's just fun to embody two different people in one evening.
Your character of 'Marian,' who is Robert's former wife in the story, was not a character in the film. I was wondering if you had discussions with [bookwriter] Marsha Norman as to why she decided to create that backstory?
You know, when we talked about it, Marsha, Jason [Robert Brown], and I felt it was a beautiful way to provide a window into the character of Robert, because up until that point of the play, he hasn't really let himself become vulnerable or open up about his past or who he is. And through the song that Marion sings, 'Another Life', you sort of get a glimpse into her experience with this man and their marriage.
And may I say, that song is just gorgeous, really mesmerizing!
How did your casting come about? I know that you were with the show when it played at the Williamstown Theater Festival this summer.
Yes, well about a year ago, I was doing a concert at 54 Below with the incredible Adam Guettel and Steven Pasquale and Kim Grigsby. It was a week-long concert, and Bart [Sher] and Jason were two of the people who came. And two days later, I got a call from my agent that they wanted to bring me in for The Bridges of Madison County and so I had an audition last February and then a callback maybe a week after that and then I found out maybe a few days after that that I was going to be with the show in Williamstown.
Wow, how exciting that must have been.
Oh my gosh, so exciting. And in April, I got the call that they wanted to offer me the Broadway contract and then I proceeded to cry and scream and call my mom! (laughing)
Well, I was about to ask you at what point you found out that the show was heading to Broadway but I guess that answers it.
Yes, I think it was in April and I was actually in Dallas doing a production of a great new musical called, 'Fly By Night' at Dallas Theater Center. And I got a call from my agent who said, 'Hi, so great news, they want to offer you the Broadway contract for Bridges of Madison County,' and we hadn't even done Williamstown yet, but I was so surprised and just ecstatic and happy. It's sort of a surreal moment when the dream that you've put so much hard work into finally happens.