Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires
These golden throats belong to the luminous Juliet Lambert Pratt and the ruggedly handsome Sean Hayden, both of whom are glorious as the central couple. Director Kevin Connors has done a brilliant job of staging The Bridges of Madison County and he makes a strong case for this show to be done in an intimate staging, which only reinforces the splendor of Jason Robert Brown's score. The concise book by Marsha Norman also helps to provide the appropriate framework for this show to work.
In the role of Francesca, Juliet Lambert Pratt gives a flawless performance and she is fully up to the task vocally in singing the almost operatic songs the composer has written for this character. It is an extra pleasure to be able to say that she is not only a wonderful singer, but an exquisite actress, as well.
Sean Hayden is just as good as photographer Robert Kincaid, who just happens to come upon Francesca's house when her husband Bud and their two children are out of town. Hayden's "Falling Into You" and the goosebump-inducing pinnacle of the score, "One Second and a Million Miles," are stellar performances. And, like his costar, Hayden's acting is enormously touching, as well.
There is also uniformly fine work by the supporting cast. Greg Roderick is excellent as Francesca's farmer husband Bud, while Matt Grasso and Megan O'Callaghan provide admirable performances as the son and daughter. Kirsti Carnahan is quite funny as Marge, Francesca's nosy neighbor, and she is nicely matched by Frank Mastrone as husband Charlie. Mia Scarpa plays several characters, the most memorable being Robert's ex-girlfriend, and she sounds great on "Another Life," while accompanying herself on the guitar.
Kevin Connors directs his cast just about perfectly and his work with Juliet Lambert Pratt and Sean Hayden, in particular, is magical. The multi-level set, expertly designed by Jordan Janota, gives the actors many different playing areas, and the costume design by Diane Vanderkroef is just right, especially the beautiful dresses Francesca wears. Michael Blagys's lighting design is very adaptable and it is impressive how he manages to isolate the different scenes. The four-piece onstage band does a terrific job playing this score, using Jason Robert Brown's orchestrations, under the superb musical direction of Nolan Bonvouloir.
There is definitely something to be said for presenting The Bridges of Madison County in a small theatre, where the audience's proximity to the performers adds nuances to the show. The Music Theatre of Connecticut production is a gem, making a strong case for this musical continuing to do well in regional theatres.
The Bridges of Madison County continues performances at Music Theatre of Connecticut in Norwalk, CT through November 19, 2017. For tickets, please visit www.musictheatreofct.com or call the box office at 203-454-3883.