Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

September 12, 2017

The Bridges of Madison County

Majestic Theater, West Springfield, MA
through October 22, 2017
by Rebecca Phelps
Some serious talent is on display at the Majestic Theater with its production of “The Bridges of Madison County;” originally a book by Robert James Waller, then a movie, followed by a musical version that ran on Broadway in 2014.

For those who know it, the story does not at first appear to lend itself to being a musical as it does not provide much action or plot development. Rather, it is a slow, gradual burn of illicit love developed over a four-day span of time in Iowa, where a farm wife is left home while her husband and children go off to the state fair. The demands on the two leads, Francesca, played by Heather Hannon, and Robert Kincaid, played by Joe Casey, are weighty as they must carry the lion’s share of the singing and acting. And this they do with their beautiful voices, refined acting, and the needed restraint to pull off the demands of the steady build as they try to stave off their attraction to each other. Both actors are strong and have the vocal skills to convey the sizable demands this show places on these characters.

Francesca’s family includes husband Bud, played by John Baker; son Michael, Bryan Austermann, and daughter Carolyn, Molly MacLoed – all solid singers and portrayers of their roles, with special kudos to Carolyn MacLoed (a high school sophomore) who delivers a peppy, funny, believable teenager. Her antics with her brother offer some scene-stealing moments and lightens up the atmosphere. Nosy neighbors: Marge, portrayed by Margie Secora; and Kevin Reid’s Charlie provide some welcome comic relief wit.

The pit band, lead ably by Mitch Chakour, brings to life the lush score performing the country/folk inspired music with real (not synthesized) strings, guitar, and keyboard. To liven things up, James Robert Brown, composer, might have done well to give the audience more country fiddling, done live by musician Ann-Marie Messbauer.

Not to give a spoiler alert, but be sure to bring your hanky.