Review: ‘The Bridges of Madison County’ at Damascus Theatre Company

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Directed by Stephanie Bonte-Lebair and presented in conjunction with Gaithersburg Arts Barn/Arts on the Green, Dasmascus Theatre Company’s The Bridges of Madison County is a crowd-pleasing musical that fans of the original 1992 novel by Robert James Waller or the 1995 film starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood are sure to enjoy. With a book by Marsha Norman and music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, this devastating and romantic musical is executed in near-perfect fashion by this cast and crew.

Photo by Elli Swink.

Elizabeth Hester plays Francesca, who embarks on a weekend affair with Robert, a National Geographic photographer played by Chad Wheeler. Both actors do a fantastic job in these roles; hitting all the right notes both musically and emotionally. Their vocal talents are on full display in the stand-out romantic number, “Before and After You/One Second and a Million Miles.”

Bob Schwartz is Bud, Francesca’s husband who has taken their two children to a state fair to have their daughter’s prize steer judged. The daughter, Carolyn (Sophia Anthony), is equal parts defiant and anxious. She and her brother Michael (Payton O’Keefe) offer the perfect balance of neediness and spitfire which leads to Francesca’s pivotal decision in the musical.

Photo by Elli Swink.

Liz Weber as the aging, nosy neighbor Marge was a special treat, both saucy and humorous in her solo number, “Get Closer.” Hugh Gordon portrays a realistic tenderness towards her as her husband Charlie.

One notable, though small, role is that of Robert’s ex-wife Marian. Caitlin Connolly has a gorgeous voice and carries “Another Life” like a pro. I expect to see her and Laura Searles, who plays a State Fair Singer, stepping into lead roles any time now.

The impressive set design by Bill Brown, makes full use of the small space they had to work with. Combined with brilliant lighting from Lighting Designer Rick Swink, the set embodied the emotional weight which the story required. Costume Designer Carol Boyle had no trouble taking us back to rural 1960s Iowa.

Photo by Elli Swink.

Due to the smaller stage, I feel it would be remiss not to mention the skill of the cast and crew in making scene transitions. The space was unforgiving and the cast and crew managed to navigate it without breaking the spell this wistful musical holds over the audience.

The Bridges of Madison County from Damascus Theatre Company is one of the best musicals I have seen this year. There isn’t a weak cast member and the technical skill of the crew involved is apparent. I highly recommend this production.

Running Time: Three hours, with one intermission.

The Bridges of Madison County plays through June 24, 2018 at Damascus Theatre Company at Gaithersburg Arts Barn- 311 Kent Square Road, Gaithersburg, MD. Tickets can be purchased online.

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