Review Roundup: What Did Critics Think Of THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY?
The Menier Chocolate Factory presents the UK premiere of the musical of Robert James Waller's bestselling novel The Bridges of Madison County in a new staging by Trevor Nunn, starring Jenna Russell and Edward Baker-Duly. The production opened last night 23 July, and runs until 14 September.
Francesca is an Italian immigrant housewife living a happy existence on a farm in the American Midwest. However, when her family go off to the Iowa State Fair, she meets Robert Kincaid, a National Geographic photographer on assignment filming bridges in the area. Their initial friendship develops into a brief but passionate affair which has devastating consequences on all of their lives.
Winner of the Tony Awards for Best Original Score and Best Orchestrations, this is some of Jason Robert Brown's most ravishing and unforgettable music.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Fiona Scott, BroadwayWorld: Russell and Baker-Duly, on occasion, struggle with Brown's demanding folk-cum-opera-cum-blues score. Those familiar with the music sung by Kelli O'Hara and Steven Pasquale on the Broadway cast recording and by others out of context in concert may be disappointed by this relatively reserved take on the songs.
Sarah Crompton: WhatsOnStage: It's all agreeable without being sensational, and if it passed a little faster I might have been able to forgive the endless scenes with the not very interesting family and the fact that the revolve kept trundling the fridge and cupboards of Francesca's neat kitchen (an over-emphatic set by Jon Bausor, enlivened by video designs by Tal Rosner) back into view.
Marianka Swain, theartsdesk: At close to three hours, the production certainly feels like it could use a trim - that's partly a feature of the staging, partly the work itself, which has an unhurried, multi-ending epilogue rivalling that of the final Lord of the Rings film. A stronger romantic connection would help power it, but Brown's score constantly rewards endurance, finding profundity in the everyday, as well as in the eternal.
Michael Billington, Guardian: Jenna Russell lends Francesca a residual Italian accent, movingly breaks down when shown pictures of her native city - "See Naples and cry," you might say - but above all regards her visitor with the hungry attentiveness of a woman long conditioned to neglect.
Paul Taylor, Independent: Beautifully orchestrated for a mid-scale band by the author, Jason Robert Brown's music is at its best when imparting the couple's rapturous sense of finding a new universe together. There's a thrilling bit where, after a split-second's momentous pause, it's as if the whole orchestra heaves itself up against the sadness of gravity into a fresh tonality.
Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out: Jenna Russell and Edward Baker-Duly are excellent as the star cross'd older lovers; she's simply one of the best, most nuanced, most technically gifted singers in the business, and carries off a light Italian accent passingly well; he's not so technically adept, but he's got a perfect, craggily roguish charisma.
Nick Curtis, Evening Standard: It feels like you could read the 192-page book, watch the vastly superior movie, and photograph all of Madison County's covered bridges in the three hours it takes Trevor Nunn's stage production to unfold.
Ann Treneman, The Times: The cast save it as best they can. Jenna Russell shines as Francesca, who suddenly realises that her husband, Bud, played with much shoutiness by Dale Rapley, is a dud. Edward Baker-Duly manages to capture the dual glamour and seediness of on-the-road photographer Robert. Maddison Bulleyment is terrific as daughter Carolyn and Gillian Kirkpatrick is solidly good as nosy neighbour Marge.