BWW Review: Utah Rep's THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY is Sublime
Utah Repertory Theater Company's phenomenal production of THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY does justice to a gorgeous score with honest, accomplished performances. The Utah premiere is the first musical to be presented at the brand new Regent Street Black Box at the Eccles Theater.
THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY (book by Marsha Norman, music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown) is based on the bestselling novel by Robert James Waller, which was previously adapted to a 1995 film starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood. The Broadway musical won the 2014 Tony Awards for Best Original Score and Best Orchestrations. In 1965, Italian housewife Francesca Johnson stays at home in Iowa while the rest of her family travels to the national 4-H fair. While alone, she meets National Geographic photographer Robert Kincaid, who is in town to photograph the local covered bridges. The four days they spend together deeply affect the rest of their lives.
Erin Royall Carlson and Kevin Goertzen are two of the best musical theatre talents Utah has to offer, and these songs and characters really give them the opportunity to soar. As Francesca and Robert, respectively, their acting feels authentic every moment they are on stage, whether or not they are the focal point of the scene. Their burnished vocals are sublime, and their characters' yearning for one another is palpable.
The remainder of the cast is very strong across the board, with Amanda Van Orden as Marian/Chiara/Ginny and Elizabeth Hansen as Marge both absolute standouts throughout the show. Every member of Francesca's family also gives an enjoyable performance, contributing to a genuine family dynamic. They include Josh Richardson as Bud, Rilee Crump as Carolyn, and Nic Thomas as Michael.
The live seven-piece orchestra, conducted by music director Jeanne McGuire, brings the beautiful score to life flawlessly, and every note is crystal clear thanks to sound designer Anthony Swanson.
The detailed costume design by Michael Nielsen and property design by Sherri Holcombe are perfectly suited to the setting and feel appropriately lived in.
The scenic design by Chase Ramsey (who co-directs with Johnny Hebda) successfully marries realism and theatricality, and the detailed kitchen set is very impressive. The lighting design by David Anthony-Ken De Carolis is in the same vein, with subtle lighting changes that make a colossal impact on the emotional effect of the musical numbers.
In the rush of the holiday season, don't miss out on one of the best theatrical productions in Utah this year.
THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY plays at the Regent Street Black Box at the Eccles Theater through December 10, 2017. To buy tickets and for more information, visit www.utahrep.org.
Photo Credit: L-R Kevin Goertzen (Robert) and Erin Royall Carlson (Francesca)