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BWW Previews: THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY THE MUSICAL at Axelrod PAC

The musical, directed by Hunter Foster, will be staged from March 11-27.

Francesca Johnson and Robert Kincaid were destined to meet and fall in love in Robert James Waller's bestselling novella, "The Bridges of Madison County."

Hunter Foster was destined to direct its musical 30 years later.

Flashback 24 years, Foster was dating his now-wife, Jennifer, who presented him with a copy of the 1992 romance novel during their courtship, which Foster remarked felt similarly to the whirlwind romance in the story. In recent years, another copy of the book, he said, was mysteriously discovered in a used book store with his mother's name, "Helen Foster," inscribed inside. It being the 30th anniversary of the book-turned Oscar-nominated movie with the same name starring Meryl Streep and director Clint Eastwood, it was only fitting for Foster to reimagine the story into a musical all his own.

BWW Previews: THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY THE MUSICAL at Axelrod PAC

"I was in the original Broadway company, and I remember reading the book when it came out and I was a big fan of the film," he recalled. "The music is so good, and so many people have grown fond of it. I think now is a great time for this show to happen."

Before a live orchestra inclusive of a nine-piece band and a stellar cast starring Kate Baldwin (Hello, Dolly!, Finian's Rainbow) and Aaron Lazar (A Little Night Music, The Light in the Piazza), the musical - which played on Broadway in 2014-will be staged at the Axelrod Theatre from March 11-27. It includes a score by Broadway composer Jason Robert Brown and a book by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Marsha Norman.

"Bridges" tells the story of an Italian World War II era war bride who later in life serendipitously meets a photographer with whom she falls fast in love during a spontaneous sight-seeing adventure photographing the historic bridges around Madison County. When she dies, her two adult children investigate her queer request for her ashes to be scattered at Roseman Bridge and not with her late husband. But when they dig through her belongings and learn about her extramarital affair, it gives them insight into their own love lives for which they are grateful, and they eventually honor her request.

Lazar and Baldwin are lifelong friends in real life, which makes their chemistry more enticing on-stage, Baldwin says.

BWW Previews: THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY THE MUSICAL at Axelrod PAC

"Aaron and I have been friends for years, this is the third project we're working on together," said Baldwin. "There's enough trust there. I always say chemistry on-stage is created by curiosity. In certain regards, curiosity is a product of not knowing someone very well, but if you can be curious about them, you will be engaged with them and trying to figure them out. That's what these two characters are doing for me and Aaron's curiosity helps with the relationship as Francesca and Robert. We see each other every 10 years. It's fun to revisit each other after another chapter of life has gone by. He's a fabulous actor and extraordinary singer. It's fun to create this version of Bridges the musical alongside him and Hunter's deep knowledge of source material."

"There's a great line in the book, 'This kind of certainty happens but once in a lifetime,'" said Foster. "Rarely in life are we certain about things. Should I take this job, date this person, should I go to the party. We're weighing the shoulds and not 100% certain about things. These two people said despite these obstacles, they are 100% certain that they are in love with each other. They were meant to be and be together. That quote is something I've taken and used in our production. It's the power of the romance novel, but it also elevates love to the spiritual level. It's not just infatuation or sex. Love is spiritual. The meaning of two souls goes beyond what we can understand as humans about what that actually means. To this day, we don't understand what that power means. It's a powerful attraction and love between two human beings."

Attendees can expect to be wowed by the vocal talents of Lazar and Baldwin, who have what Foster calls "incredible" singing voices that are as mellifluous as they are vulnerable. The set will be deliberately simple and the scenes left to the audience's imagination as not to distract the viewer from the powerful performances.

"I am a fan of the music first," said Baldwin. "It's one of the most beautiful that was written for Broadway. That was my hook. I remember seeing it on Broadway and thinking, 'that is some gorgeous music.' I loved the way it all sounded and the way it told the story so effectively. The musical does such a great job of getting context and the backstory and letting the inner life of the character sing."

Baldwin divulged her favorite song in the musical, "Always Better," that brings a tear to her eyes as it explores love in all its forms and reminds her that to love is better than to not have loved at all.

"I think people should see this musical to remind themselves of how transformative love can be," said Baldwin. "It can change yourself. It's the best magic trick."

The production teams includes Keith Levenson (Broadway's Annie) as the music director and conductor; Anna Louizos (Broadway's In the Heights, White Christmas, Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella) as scenic designer; Paul Miller (Broadway's Legally Blonde) as the lighting designer; Lauren Roark as the costume designer; and Jeff Sherwood is the sound designer.

The Axelrod PAC is located at 100 Grant Ave., Deal Park. Tickets are $32-$65 and can be purchased by visiting https://www.axelrodartscenter.com/.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Axelrod Performing Arts Center




From This Author - Lianna Albrizio


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