The Bridges of Madison County, currently playing at Artistry, is a beautiful show with a luscious score that absolutely embraces you from the first note to the final bows. It is quite a big show to take on, the score by Jason Robert Brown is operatic and demands a lot of both the actors on stage and the musicians in the pit and everyone involved in this production deliver top not performances. Artistry has been drawing my interest for a few years now, constantly impressing me with their execution of musicals, but Bridges of Madison County proves that Artistry is a powerhouse in the Twin Cities for producing musicals.
The show, based on the book and movie of the same name is about a house wife, Francesca who 18 years after moving to Iowa from Naples after WWII to marry her American solider finds her life upturned by a photographer named Robert Kincaid, from the National Geographic who has come to take photos of the covered bridges in the area. At the center of the show is a love story, but what makes it so special is that the show is not only about the love between Francesca and Robert, but also the love in family, the love in a community and the love for where you are from.
Jennifer Baldwin Peden and Eric Morris play Francesca and Robert, the lovers at the center of the story. They share a chemistry and both have powerful, rich and beautiful voices that blend together like a dream. Morris's portrayal of Kincaid was filled with powerful emotion displayed both physically and vocally while Peden's Francesca was played more subtley in a way that perfectly hooked me in the opening song To Build a Home and pulled me through the whole show. The show is also filled with incredible actors playing the supporting characters including Alyson Enderle, Ryan London Levin, Charlie Clark and Becca Hart.
The set of the show designed by Artistry's resident scenic designer Rick Polenek relies on set pieces rolled in from the wings or flown in from above. The set pieces are moved in so fluidly with the music allowing the stage to transform from Iowa's wheat fields, to a kitchen, a covered bridge, or a state fair. The sparseness of the permanent set filled in the portable pieces combined with the lighting design by Mike Kittel work together perfectly to tell the story.
The Bridges of Madison County is a must see for anyone who is a fan of the work of Jason Robert Brown, or contemporary musicals with luscious scores. It is playing at Artistry until February 16th, click here for more information about the show and how to get tickets.
*Photo Credit: Devon Cox