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Marriott's Production of 'The Bridges of Madison County' moved Me to Tears

Although I enjoyed Marsha Norman’s book, “The Bridges of Madison County”, I thought the movie was a waste of time. Even though Merle Streep and Clint Eastwood are Hollywood icons, they just didn’t work as Francesca and Robert. She was too blonde; he was just too old for a romantic lead.

Bud Johnson (Bart Shatto) brought his Italian bride, Francesca (Voytko), home to his Iowa farm after the war. She cooked, kept the house and raised their children, Michael (Tanner Hake) and Carolyn (Brooke MacDougal) while he worked the farm. Francesca almost never has time to herself, but this weekend, Bud is taking the kids – and Carolyn’s prize steer – to the Indiana State Fair in Indianapolis where he has a good chance at winning ‘Steer of the Year’. By the way, Michael, who doesn’t want any part of farming, and Carolyn, the family snitch, can’t be in the same space without arguing and picking at each other.

Francesca is planning on relaxing all weekend. As she’s enjoying a cup of coffee and a phone chat with her neighbor, Marge (Wydetta Carter), a car pulls into her driveway. A handsome man, Robert Kincaid (Stampley), who says he’s a photographer for National Geographic, asks directions. He says he’s in town to take pictures of Madison County’s famous covered bridges. He’s found six of them, but he can’t find the Roseman Bridge. Rather than give him directions, Francesca offers to go with him.

When they return, Francesca invites Robert in for a glass of iced tea. When she learns that he’s been to Naples, she asks to see his pictures, but he didn’t have them with him. Realizing that the restaurant in town is closed, she offers to make soup for him using a recipe she brought from Naples and his choice of home-grown vegetables. Marge and Charlie (Terry Hamilton) get out the binoculars to check out what’s happening.

When he returns to the bridge in the morning to shoot his pictures, she shows up. He explains what makes a good picture and they grow closer. When he gives her the copy of National Geographic with his pictures of Naples, she is overcome and tells him about her life there. Back at the farm, they kiss, but they’re interrupted by a phone call from Marge. One of the best lines in the musical comes when Francesca says “… the god of Iowa housewives brought you to me.”

In a fun scene, Robert and Francesca turn on the radio looking for dance music. Across the way, Marian is singing the sultry “Get Closer” into a spoon microphone.

Although Francesca and Robert fell deeply in love, in the end, she couldn’t leave her children for him.

I loved Jeffrey D. Kmiec’s versatile multi-level set. As the young bride travels from Italy to Iowa with her new husband, Francesca sings “To Build a Home”. As they sing along, ensemble members carry in furniture and set up her kitchen on one corner of the stage, Marge’s on the opposite corner, with a wide open area between them stretching diagonally between the other two corners. When Robert and Francesca visit the Rosemont Bridge, that entire section rises, ensemble members pull up two trellis-like grids, and suddenly, there are the sides of a covered bridge. When a trap door in this section is opened, a double bed rises (and lowers). Finally, for certain scenes/songs, a platform at either end of the diagonal can be raised.