17th July 2019
Review by Shaun Tossell
“… It will all fade away but you…”
The Bridges of Madison County finally comes to the UK, the musical adaptation of the best-selling novel by Robert James Waller and film that starred Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood, after a brief Broadway run in 2014.
It tells the story of Francesca (Jenna Russell), an Italian immigrant housewife happily living with her family on a farm in Iowa. However, when her family takes a trip to the State Fair, she unexpectedly meets Robert Kincaid (Edward Baker-Duly), a photographer on assignment to photograph the bridges in the area. Their unexpected friendship develops quickly into something more, which has profound consequences for all involved.
Jenna Russell gives a nuanced and heart-rending portrayal of a woman, haunted by the tragedies of her past, who yearns for a life and love she can’t have.
She has wonderful chemistry with Edward Baker-Duly, who brings a soulful quality to the character of Robert, who is hesitant to get close to Francesca at first.
They are supported by a small and talented ensemble cast, with the standouts being Shanay Holmes, who gives a gorgeous rendition of “Another Life” and Gillian Kirkpatrick as Marge, who was excellent comic relief.
The set design makes clever use of projections, making the small theatre space feel bigger than it is. The lighting, utilised in unison with the projections, is wonderfully atmospheric.
Scene transitions, however, were slightly clunky and a little jarring, with the main table setpiece coming in and out onstage a few too many times.
The songs written by Jason Robert Brown permeate the show with a meloncholy air but are also gorgeously romantic.
This is slow burn of a show though, which isn’t for everyone.
If you allow yourself to be drawn into the world of these two strangers who fall in love, this will appeal to all the hopeless romantics out there.
Fair warning, you may want to bring tissues.
*This review was of a preview performance.
The Bridges of Madison County is now playing at the Menier Chocolate Factory until 14th September 2019.