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Review Roundup: THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!

The Bridges of Madison County, the new musical based on the best selling novel by Robert James Waller, opens tonight, February 20, 2014, at 8:00 PM at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre (236 West 45th Street).

Four-time Tony nominee Kelli O'Hara reunites with Bartlett Sher, the Tony-winning director of South Pacific and The Light in the Piazza, for a stunning new musical by the Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning team of Marsha Norman and Jason Robert Brown. O'Hara is joined onstage by Steven Pasquale ("Rescue Me", reasons to be pretty).

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Ben Brantley, The New York Times: I am happy to say that Ms. O'Hara more than keeps the promises made by her interpretation of that first song, one of many sumptuous pieces that feel as if they had been written specifically for her by the show's composer, Jason Robert Brown. She also confirms her position as one of the most exquisitely expressive stars in musical theater. Her Francesca, a questioning farmer's wife who briefly discovers a love with all the answers, brings a rich and varied topography to what might have been strictly flat corn country. True, the rest of the show, directed by Bartlett Sher with a script by Marsha Norman, isn't nearly as multidimensional. Though Ms. O'Hara has a lust-worthy leading man in Steven Pasquale, most of what surrounds her has the depth of a shiny picture postcard, one that bears a disproportionately long and repetitive message. Still, when you have a central performance as sensitive, probing and operatically rich and lustrous as Ms. O'Hara's, you won't find me kvetching too loudly...

Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: The Iowa featured in the new musical "The Bridges of Madison County" is flat indeed but, oh boy, the voices soar. Kelli O'Hara and Steven Pasquale come just short of blowing the roof off the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre in this touching doomed romance that features a superb, thrilling score by Jason Robert Brown. Brown, the talented composer behind "13," ''The Last Five Years" and "Parade," has never had a real New York hit. This should be it.

Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal: [O'Hara's] openhearted performance is as believably acted and immaculately sung as anything she's ever done...She's so fine, in fact, that she casts a shadow over Mr. Pasquale, an excellent singer who lacks the redeeming touch of mystery that Mr. Eastwood brought to the too-good-to-be-true role of Robert, the photographer (and who is a decade too young for the part)...Up to a point, Mr. Brown's warm, expansive score is an equally strong selling point for "Bridges." Parts of it are as musically exciting as anything heard on Broadway since Stephen Sondheim's glory days...But Mr. Brown is rather better at writing scenes than songs, and except for "Another Life," a sweetly folk-flavored ballad sung in a flashback by Robert's ex-wife (Whitney Bashor), none of the songs in "The Bridges of Madison County" has a clear-cut, boldly shaped melodic profile-or, for that matter, a truly memorable lyric.

Marilyn Stasio, Variety: Everybody knows that playwrights shouldn't direct their own plays. But composers might also think twice about doing their own orchestrations. In an intimate house, Jason Robert Brown's lushly melodic score for "The Bridges of Madison County" would seem a proper fit for Marsha Norman's book, which is gushy but more literate than Robert James Waller's mawkish 1992 novella about soulful lovers in a hopeless adulterous affair. But although Kelli O'Hara and Steven Pasquale are in glorious voice as this passionate pair, the bombastic orchestrations and Bartlett Sher's overstated helming inflate the production into some quasi-operatic beast that thinks it's "Aida."

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: One of the works that put Jason Robert Brown on the map is The Last Five Years, a 2001 two-character chamber musical that deconstructs in microscopic detail the entirety of a relationship, from first encounter through marriage to breakup. A variation on that theme, this time chronicling just four whirlwind days of intense passion, is trapped inside the composer-lyricist's cluttered stage retelling of The Bridges of Madison County. Fussy direction and design choices and cumbersome book scenes crowd the central couple, but the gorgeous voices and thoughtful characterizations of Kelli O'Hara and Steven Pasquale in those roles help counter the weaknesses of this problematic romantic musical.

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