Musical about forbidden love affair to open Theatre Lawrence’s new season
photo by: Ashley Hocking
The story that was the focus of many a book club in the early 1990s will soon take the stage in Lawrence.
“The Bridges of Madison County” — originally released as a novel in 1992 and as a film in 1995 — makes its way to Lawrence in musical form for the first time this weekend, said Mary Doveton, executive director of Theatre Lawrence. The musical adaptation of the story opened on Broadway in 2014.
The three-week run of the show — the community theater’s season opener — begins at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Theatre Lawrence, 4660 Bauer Farm Drive.
“This (musical) is pretty new and has not been done around here at all,” Doveton said. “It’s a musical set in the Midwest, and I think a lot of people can relate to it.”
The musical, directed by Jack Wright, tells the story of an Italian immigrant, Francesca, portrayed by Katherine DiGiulian (the stage name of Katherine Dick), who moves to a small farm in Iowa with her American husband, Bud, after World War II. In 1965, after years of a solid relationship with Bud, Francesca meets Robert, portrayed by Andrew Ramaley, and engages in a forbidden love affair with him as he photographs the covered bridges of Madison County.
The story revolves around the decisions Francesca makes — or, one could say, the bridges she does and does not cross.
The film starred Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood and focused on their love affair, but the musical opens the story up, Wright said.
“You get to meet (Francesca’s family) through the music and through their individual songs,” he said. “It’s quite an entertaining piece, and I think audiences will love the musical and the characters.”
Another interesting feature for the show is a reverse projection — shooting images from behind the stage onto a white canvas shaped like a home, to create the background of the set. Doveton said the projection technology is new to the theater and the musical is a great opportunity to show it off.
James Diemer, technical director for the theater, featured the technology in the opening scene, showing photos that explain Francesca’s move from Italy to Iowa.
“He creates the mood and the ambience,” Wright said. “When I first saw the rear projection, I was impressed. It’s just a fantastic experience.”
To prepare for the role, DiGiulian said she researched how Italy was affected by World War II and how that would also affect a young woman leaving her own country for a new one.
“I can really relate to Francesca more at that age,” said DiGiulian, who is 27. “I have been exploring what an older woman would feel like. That’s been a discovery for me and working with Jack Wright and the rest of the cast on that has been amazing.”
While DiGiulian is younger than the character she is portraying, she said the important thing was the complexity of relationships rather than age.
“What does that do to a family that has never had something like (an affair) happen to them that might rock the foundations?” she said. “Really Francesca has been dormant for a while when she gets to Iowa, and she never really had the opportunity to explore falling into a beautiful relationship.”
To portray the love interest, Ramaley said he read the book and watched the movie prior to the production.
“(Robert is) a man who has been everywhere but never found home, but he finds it in this farm wife in Iowa,” he said. “It’s been fun to create that character.”
Ramaley joked that he couldn’t pull of the Clint Eastwood version of Robert, which required a certain type of swagger, and Wright doesn’t want him to, anyway. He said Wright has been teaching him the “tips and tricks” to create his version of the character.
“The movie and musical are so different that that’s just one version of the adaptation,” Ramaley said. “It doesn’t matter how anyone else has sung it or how anyone else portrayed it; this is my Robert Kincaid. I don’t have to be like anything, just me.”
On the flip side of the love affair is Bud, portrayed by Patrick Kelly. The love affair between Robert and Francesca is possible because Bud takes their son and daughter to an out-of-state fair where their daughter is participating in a steer-raising competition.
Kelly said the story is all about the choices people make and people finding love when they aren’t expecting it.
The strong characters in the productions complement the music and landscape, Wright said.
“You put all of those together, and I think you have a wonderful experience for the audience,” he said.