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Review: The Bridges of Madison County, at Menier Chocolate Factory

Musical adaptation with melodrama at its core, is made palatable by witty and charismatic performances

08 August, 2019 — By Catherine Usher

Edward Baker-Duly in The Bridges of Madison County. Photo: Johan Persson

A MUSICAL version of a sweeping romance might not be to everyone’s tastes, but The Bridges Of Madison County at the Menier takes on the challenge with gusto.

As photographer Robert Kincaid, Edward Baker-Duly is the classic romantic hero – strong, sensitive, handsome and exotic. When he strolls into rural 1960s Iowa like a hippyish Kevin Bacon and meets housewife Francesca (Jenna Russell), one can hardly blame unfulfilled Fran for being both distracted and attracted.

The story, adapted from the novel by Robert James Waller, has melodrama at its core, but it is palatable, particularly because Italian war bride Francesca is so witty and charismatic.

The audience may feel slightly sorry for her unsuspecting husband Bud (an excellent Dale Rapley), but he does consistently fail to pay sufficient attention to his wife.

Although it’s always clear when a song is approaching, the musical numbers do slip discreetly into the plot, a particular highlight being when nosey neighbour Marge (Gillian Kirkpatrick) becomes a lounge singer who serenades the lovers with the romantic Get Closer.

The intensity of the romance soon starts to feel ominous and in Fran’s domestic kitchen setting, the sense of suffocation is palpable. But due to the fantastic Russell’s portrayal of spirited, loving Francesca, there’s a pervading feeling of hope as the curtain falls.

Until September 14
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