Entertainment :: Music

The Bridges Of Madison County - Original Broadway Cast Recording

by Steven Bergman
Contributor
Wednesday May 21, 2014
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Based on the noted 1992 novel by Robert James Waller, and adapted into an intimate film featuring powerhouses Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood, "The Bridges of Madison County" may initially seem an unlikely source for a Broadway musical. The show ended its run on May 18, after 137 performances, but Waller’s story of Francesca, an Italian housewife left unfulfilled by circumstances in the 1960s Midwest, proved a sentimental, heartfelt and touching work as translated by the highly capable librettist Marsha Norman ("’Night Mother") and Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown.

With Ghostlight Records releasing the show’s soundtrack, those who didn’t get to take in the stage production will still have the opportunity to be impacted by this tragic tale of missed chances on audio. It has been too long since we had a new score of Brown’s music, and the time lapse has allowed for the creation of a cohesive work that shows a composer who has evolved, yet still remembers how to masterfully manipulate our emotions through his characters’ songs. Those familiar with his canon ("Last Five Years," "Parade") will continue to recognize some of his melodic progressions, but Brown never gets tedious, especially with his primary orchestration choice to use the guitar as the foundation of the show’s harmonic timbres, instead of his usual piano-based writing. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have the ridiculously flexible voice of Tony Award-nominee, Kelli O’Hara, as Francesca, and Steven Pasquale as Robert, the photographer whose happenstance arrival in Francesca’s town, coincidentally while her husband and children are away, allows the woman to rediscover the passion and realization of life and love.

O’Hara’s voice is glorious, and Brown’s music perfectly draws the pictures she dreams, especially on the showstopping "Almost Real," and the final number, "Always Better." An ensemble of supporting actors who frequently star themselves, including Hunter Foster as Francesca’s husband, Bud, Derek Klena ("Carrie") as her son Michael, and Cass Morgan ("Pump Boys and Dinettes") as their neighbor, beautifully convey Brown’s various styles of music, ranging from ballads to Americana to country-crossover.


"The Bridges of Madison County"
Jason Robert Brown / Kelli O’Hara / Steven Pasquale
CD and digital formats
Ghostlight Records

Steven Bergman is a Composer / Playwright / Performing Arts Educator based outside of Boston, MA.

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