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The Bridges of Madison County Hardcover – 1992
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Probably the most irresistible love-story formula is that of true love lost, along the lines of Romeo and Juliet, Gone with the Wind, and Titanic. The Bridges of Madison County, a monster hit of the early 1990s, is that kind of torturous melodrama, writ small. Very small. Because lone wolf photographer Robert Kincaid has only four adulterous days to spend with shy Iowa farmhouse wife Francesca Johnson before her husband returns from the state fair with the kids in tow. The novella-sized affair feels much longer than it actually is, mostly because Francesca spends a lot of time gazing at her lover, who is described, by turns, as a "leopard," "peregrine," "shaman," and "star-creature." The worldly loner melts under this adoration and ends up begging her to run away with him to a safari-adventure life in exotic locales all over the world. "We'll make love in the desert sand and drink brandy on balconies in Mombasa, watching dhows from Arabia run up their sails in the first wind of morning. I'll show you lion country and an old French city on the Bay of Bengal." Alas, Francesca keeps fast to her Midwestern family values. She lets the love of her life (who will, as a result, stay true to her until he draws his last breath) drive away in his truck without her, while leaving it up to her diary to confess the affair to her children after her death. --Sumi Hahn Almquist
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I guess everyone has his/her criteria for what makes a great Broadway show (i.e., new shows, not revivals). For me, it's about hearing melodies I haven't heard a million times before. It's also about hearing songs that indelibly capture character in a single moment. This show did exactly that for me. I know this review is supposed to address the recording alone, but as the show is still running (and probably struggling for an audience while Aladdin will be SRO for the next dozen years) I can't help throwing kudos for the spare, deeply creative staging. I know that "beautiful" is the most overused adjective in the vernacular, but The Bridges of Madison County truly is that. The songs are simply lush, and every singer, especially O'Hara and Pasquale, render them with palpable passion. The show haunted me for days, and I can't wait to have the OBC recording on CD to treasure forever along with my other favorite shows of all time.
As to the reviewer a few notches below who gave this a poor review, I'm certainly not "hating" him (or her), nor do I consider myself an expert on this composer's oeuvre, but I clearly see great worth in this musical score. My recommendation to others is: see the show, buy the music, decide for yourself.
and Streep. Kelli O'Hara and Steven Pasquale are younger and more passionate than the book/movie versions of Francesca and
Robert. Not only soaring love songs but sung monologues which give us greater insight into the characters and their past. I
even agree with the decision to enlarge the role of Francesca's down-to-earth, unromantic but loving, loyal husband. His songs
create a man who isn't as exciting as Robert but who has his own virtues. That makes her final decision easier to comprehend
and accept. I think that the 2015 Tony for Kelli O'Hara's role in The King and I, although well deserved, should have been
given to her in 2014 for Bridges of Madison County. And Steven Pasquale deserved one too, for taking a character who was so
insufferable in the book----and making him both seductive and sympathetic. There's even a wonderful song for the small role
of Robert's former wife.