BWW Review: THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY at Dundalk Community Theatre - Simply Spectacular!
I was so excited when I noticed that the Dundalk Community Theatre would be presenting Jason Robert Brown's THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY. I just love this show. And when I read that Todd Pearthree would be directing, that's when I REALLY got excited.
I've been an admirer of Pearthree going back to Theatre Hopkins, Maryland Arts Festival, and his Musical Theatre Machine.
Well, my anticipation was certainly rewarded. What a terrific job Pearthree does with his magnificent cast.
I recall seeing the tour of the musical last year at the Kennedy Center with the composer conducting. What a treat that was!!
Many of you may know the story behind the best-selling novel of the same name by Robert James Waller (1992) and turned into a film in 1995 starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood. It was Waller's agent who approached Book Writer Marsha Norman to adapt the novel into a musical. She then contacted composer Brown who previously worked with her on THE TRUMPET AND THE SWAN at the Kennedy Center. It would take them four years to bring the show to fruition and Brown's magical score won the 2014 Tony Awards for Best Musical Score and Best Orchestration. You can understand why after your listen to the CD which I highly recommend before you see it this final week-end of the run. The music is just plain infectious. I still cannot stop humming the gorgeous melodies.
Jesse Green, now writing for the New York Times (formerly of New York Magazine) writes in the CD booklet Brown composes ",,,a driving stomp ("Home Before You Know It), a fiddly hoedown ("State Road 21"), a blues for radio ("Get Closer") , a blues for church ("When I'm Gone")...and a fantastic Joni Mitchell-style bossa nova ("Another Life"). It's a veritable potpourri of music This is no easy task. But if you've ever seen Brown's iconic musical PARADE, you can understand how he writes in very different styles.
The show concerns an Italian war bride (Francesca) who was swept off her feet by a GI (Bud) to the farm country in Iowa. 18 years later they have two children, Michael and Carolyn. While Bud and the children are off to the Iowa State Fair for four days (Carolyn is competing for a gold medal with her steer), Francesca is left alone and she looks forward to a little privacy which is quickly interrupted when a stranger arrives at her farm house looking for directions. The stranger, Robert Kincaid, is a photojournalist who takes photos for National Geographic magazine. He arrives and he's shooting the various covered bridges in the area. He gets directions from Francesca and well...you can surmise what happens next.
The show opens with the lovely strains of a solo cello and when Nancy Asendorf starts to sing her opening aria upstage alone "To Build Alone" which summarizes her life to this point I got goose bumps. What an amazing and superlative voice she possesses. I knew from that moment I could sit back relax and enjoy this talented performer. Tom Burns does yeoman's work as photographer "Robert Kincaid". Playing her husband "Bud" is Jeff Burch who gives his role a certain mid-west honesty. He could tell by his frequent phone calls to Francesca from the State Fair she sounded "different". Their two children were played by the talented William Bryant and Emily Signor who must be thrilled to perform with her father Joel who is in the ensemble
Every show needs a comic aspect and book writer Norman provides that with Francesca's nosy next door neighbors, Marge and her husband Charlie. The talented Tiffany Walker Porta and Ken Ewing are terrific together. Marge uses binoculars to spy on her neighbor and surmises what is happening when she sees a suspicious truck in the driveway. But what a friend she turns out to be later. She also gets to shine in a jazzy number "Get Closer" while Charlie joins Bud in a rousing number "When I'm Gone".
But it's the ballads that you will be singing on your way home. "What Do You Call a Man Like That", "Wondering", and "It All Fades Away". I still cannot stop humming them.
The seven member ensemble (Ariel Edler, Lillian Blank, Eva Grove, Jackie Rebok, Joel Signor, Albert J. Boeren, and Jules Einhorn) add so much with their gorgeous voices.
Francesca is faced with a choosing between her love of Robert versus her husband and family. I was reminded of Ibsen's A DOLL HOUSE where Nora leaves her husband and family for independence. I won't spoil what she decides.
THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY should not be missed. This is not a big splashy musical with big production numbers. You will not hear any trumpets, horns, or woodwinds. You will hear some great strings, keyboards, and percussion under the superb direction of Musical Director Glenette (Rohner) Schumacher..
Marc W. Smith performs the troika being in charge of Sound, Lighting, and Scenic Design. The Costume Designer is Eva Grove.
Once again Pearthree has directed a superb musical.
BRIDGES continues at the Dundalk Community Theatre until Nov. 5th in the John E. Revekes Theatre, K Building, 7200 Sollers Point Rd. in Dundalk, MD. For tickets, call 410-285-9667 or visit www. ccbcmd.edu/performingarts/dct.html.
In 2018 look for DCT's productions of THE GRADUATE and the musical CATCH ME IF YOU CAN.
They also present a "Winter Wonderland Concert" on December 2, 2017 at 7 p.m.