I've never seen the movie or read the book of Bridges of Madison County and I honestly felt like I would probably hate the story, feel it far too "precious" for me, and be just too "ick" for me to like this musical.
Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh my god, Bridges is so good. I don't care if you feel otherwise. I don't know why this closed so soon -- I talked to a friend who was the music assistant on it, and he was like, "I think it was everyone's second choice to see -- so the crowds didn't come until the end of the run." Which makes sense, I guess. I certainly didn't have any desire to see it while it was on Broadway. I had heard such good things about the music, but it takes a lot for me to want to spend the money on tickets to a show, and based on the advertisements I saw, this wouldn't have interested me. BUT IN REALITY IT INTERESTED ME SO MUCH AND I HAVE SO MANY FEELINGS NOW! (So many feelings that it's hard for me to keep them straight to write about them.)
First, Kelli O'Hara is perfect and amazing and I love her and I CANNOT with her. Second, Steven Pasquale murdered me with low notes. WHY AREN'T THERE MORE ROLES WRITTEN FOR BARITONES??? That low note in "Temporarily Lost" when he sings "Lake Superior" is CRAZY. What really sold me on this show, though, was the song "Another Life" -- sung by a character who is in one scene -- and we learn so much about her in that one song.
I watched a bootleg of this musical, again, thinking the cast recording was a fluke and that I wouldn't like the show altogether, but I still loved it. The female characters are so good -- Carolyn (the daughter) and Marge (the neighbor) are hilarious, Carolyn and Marian (the ex-wife) have so much depth, and of course, Carolyn and Francesca are the same but it's Carolyn who actually expresses the sadness they both have in actual words.
Jason Robert Brown is so good that it HURTS me.
The thing that has gotten to me the most about this show is the stuff that isn't even really mentioned -- like the fact that this entire story happens because a woman during that time had basically no opportunities to do anything with her life. She was supposed to learn to cook and do house-things and get married and raise kids: end of story. This is still probably fine for many people, WHICH IS FINE, but there are others, who this has NEVER been enough for. There are people who existed 1000 years ago, who this was not enough for, they just didn't know why. Poor Francesca barely knows why. Men aren't excluded from this... I'm sure there are millions of men who had desires bigger than to take over their father's business or farm or whatever (including Francesca's son)-- it's just a bigger group of women, because women STILL don't have as many opportunities as men.
When Robert is speaking of his ex-wife, he says something along the lines of "She wanted to be a singer or something.. but she was a waitress." Even HE had trouble understanding a woman's desire for more in her life than domesticality, and he works in art! I feel like it's very telling that he tells Francesca that part of his love for her was her love for her family.
Anyway, Francesca's love for Robert is not the "thing" that her life was missing -- it's just an example of how lacking her life had been. And it's not like her husband is a bad guy, because he's not at ALL. But, I get it. Who knows what she could have done with her life. She was a good artist, herself. With the passion she has, imagine what this character could have done to truly fulfill herself.
(On a side note, I love how JRB has them express their initial feelings of infatuation -- they are so real.)
What I need you to know is that this musical is BEAUTIFUL and it's not because of this love story that ends sadly, it's because of the music and the story of the realness to these women. And because Kelli O'Hara is unstoppably perfect.
The Bridges of Madison County
Music and Lyrics by Jason Robert Brown
Book by Marsha Norman