Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Interview: Mary Nickles, Director of THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY at Mill Town Players

Regional premiere of Broadway musical runs Sep 30 – Oct 16 at historic Pelzer Auditorium

Interview: Mary Nickles, Director of THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY at Mill Town Players

This weekend marks the South Carolina regional premiere of THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY, the Tony Award-winning musical based on the bestselling novel.

The show runs from September 30 to October 16 at the Mill Town Players original location, historic Pelzer Auditorium.

We asked the show's director, Mary Nickles, to tell us about her approach to this new version of the beloved story.


First off, please tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am presently the director and producer of the Anderson Senior Follies and an adjunct theater professor at Anderson University. Prior to that, I taught music and drama at the Montessori School of Anderson for 17 years where I produced and directed over 40 productions. I have a BA in Theatre from Coker College and a MA in Theatre Production from Central Washington University. I live in Anderson and have enjoyed directing at Anderson University and several of the community theaters in the area.

Mary Nickles
Mary Nickles

Tell us a little about the show and a few of the key cast/crew members.

This musical is based on Robert James Waller's best-selling novel and was developed by Tony Award winner Jason Robert Brown and Pulitzer Prize winner Marsha Norman. It is the story of Francesca Johnson, an Italian woman who married an American soldier to flee war-ravaged Italy. The play is set in 1965, where we find Francesca on a farm in Iowa. Her husband and two children have planned a trip to the State Fair in Indianapolis and Francesca is looking forward to a rare four days alone on the farm. Robert Kincaid, a photographer from the National Geographic, pulls into her driveway seeking directions, and what happens in the next four days may very well alter the course of Francesca's life. The story is woven by Francesca, Robert and an ensemble who help give insight into Robert's and Francesca's lives.

What was your familiarity with the novel and the musical beforehand?

I was not very familiar with the musical or book before directing it. I saw the movie back in the 90's but that was it.

The novel sold tens of millions of copies, and the Meryl Streep/Clint Eastwood movie was widely popular. Do you feel any extra pressure when bringing this beloved story to life on stage?

Because the musical is so very different from the movie, I feel people will embrace it without really comparing it. I feel that people's familiarity with the story will actually help as they watch, and they will love getting to know Francesca's family and neighbors in the musical. In contrast to the cinematic version, the community of Winterset plays a much more significant role in the musical, which I believe adds to the story.

Interview: Mary Nickles, Director of THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY at Mill Town Players The musical had a relatively short Broadway run. How would you describe it to folks who only know the book or the movie (or even those who are unfamiliar with either version)?

The music is gorgeous. It is a marriage of two extremely different genres (contemporary Folk and Classical musical theatre) Our music director, Julie Florin, describes it as evocative of the late 50's and 60's, yet modern with Italian overtones. There is a dreamlike quality to the story telling, where at times, supporting vignettes add depth, complexity, and meaning to a scene. I love how efficient the storytelling is and how a short piece of dialogue or song can quickly give so much insight into the characters. There is a lot of subtlety and depth packed into the script, in both the lyrics and the dialogue. It is a beautiful musical and we are able to have a 7 piece band which is just amazing! I feel that our audiences will relate to many of the characters and much of the storyline.

Your MTP production of BRIGHT STAR frankly outshined the original Broadway production (in my humble opinion). You clearly have a way with americana musicals. What draws you to this kind of musical?

Wow, thank you so much. BRIGHT STAR was certainly a special show and a wonderful experience. There are definitely a lot of similarities between the two.

I really gravitate towards musicals and plays that require creative storytelling and I absolutely LOVE ensemble work. BRIDGES is much like BRIGHT STAR in that we have a unit set and need to create a lot of different settings, using items such as a simple chair, a bench, or by using lighting creatively. It flips from different times and places very quickly, giving us lots of opportunities for creative problem-solving while at the same time being mindful to move the story along seamlessly. Honestly, that may be the single most challenging aspect of both BRIGHT STAR and BRIDGES. But, in the end, I love this kind of story telling!!!

What did I not ask you that you wish I had?

When I am working with a show, I am constantly reflecting on what it is that the cast and I are supposed to learn from the story and the experience. As I wrestled with this story and its themes, the first to present itself was that of the power of love and the struggle of having to choose between two loves. This story clearly depicts the emotional turmoil of a heart divided. However, as we continued to wrestle with the story, another theme emerged: the basic human need to be seen, heard, and understood. Oftentimes, it requires the love of someone else who sees, loves, and cherishes us deeply enough that it awakens parts of us that we had forgotten or didn't even know existed. Through being truly seen, understood, and loved we begin to reach our full potential. It is through the act of seeing and being seen; loving, and being loved that we become who we are and who we are meant to be. It takes just one moment, one event, one choice to change one's life. This play is about Francesca's moment.

It is my hope that our audiences will walk away with a better understanding of what it means to see and love someone deeply enough so as to awaken those forgotten parts and help them rediscover important pieces of themselves. May we live our lives with a spirit that helps others reach their potential and live their fullest life.


THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY - A NEW MUSICAL

September 30 - October 16. Shows run at 7:30 pm on Thursdays and Fridays and 3 pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

Mill Town Players - Historic Pelzer Auditorium

$12 for the general public, $10 for seniors (age 65+), military, and students (ages 18 and under).

Tickets can be purchased online or at the box office one hour before show time.

Photo Credit: Escobar Photography

Click Here to Buy Tickets


Vote Now for the 2022 BroadwayWorld South Carolina Awards
voting ends in




From This Author - Neil Shurley

Neil Shurley has been covering the Greenville SC arts scene since 2001. A member of the American Theatre Critics Association, his theatre-related work has appeared in such publications as The ... (read more about this author)


Review: Passionate Performances Drive Dramatic, Poetic PIPELINE at Warehouse TheatreReview: Passionate Performances Drive Dramatic, Poetic PIPELINE at Warehouse Theatre
October 7, 2022

What did our critic think of PIPELINE at Warehouse Theatre?

Interview: Micaela Lamas & Pablo David Laucerica of DEAR EVAN HANSEN at Peace CenterInterview: Micaela Lamas & Pablo David Laucerica of DEAR EVAN HANSEN at Peace Center
October 5, 2022

Last seen here in July 2019, DEAR EVAN HANSEN tells a profound and deeply personal story of social anxiety, community loss, and the overwhelming influence of social media.

Interview: Mary Nickles, Director of THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY at Mill Town PlayersInterview: Mary Nickles, Director of THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY at Mill Town Players
September 29, 2022

This weekend marks the South Carolina regional premiere of THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY, the Tony Award-winning musical based on the bestselling novel. The show runs from September 30 to October 16 at the Mill Town Players original location, historic Pelzer Auditorium.

Interview: Brittany Hogan Alomar of THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY at Mill Town PlayersInterview: Brittany Hogan Alomar of THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY at Mill Town Players
September 26, 2022

'This is a story about love, conflict, questions, and choice. It is real and raw and can resonate with everyone.'

Review: SOMETHING ROTTEN at Greenville Theatre is Big, Bright, and BrilliantReview: SOMETHING ROTTEN at Greenville Theatre is Big, Bright, and Brilliant
September 12, 2022

What did our critic think of SOMETHING ROTTEN at Greenville Theatre? Ah, the 90's, when so many things were ripe for reinvention. New clothes, new music, new writers, new ways of spreading ideas.