Tag Archives: Bridges of Madison County

2013-2014 Broadway/Off Broadway Year in Review

Awards season is upon us, with nominations for Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and Drama League awards announced, and less than 24 hours until the 2014 Tony nominees are revealed, we’re taking a look back at the shows we loved the most from this Broadway and Off Broadway season. Share your own in the comments!

Ash – Concierge Manager

What is your must see show and why?

bway14ac1The must-see show of the season is the first Broadway staging of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. With it’s crazy premise, insane cult following (following it’s Off-Broadway incarnation and subsequent film), awesome score, and the exciting casting of Neil Patrick Harris as Hedwig, this is THE show to see.

What was musical number or song stopped the show for you this season?

In any given season, I could pick something like a fabulous tap number from After Midnight, a Susan Stroman-choreographed gem from Bullets Over Broadway, the Genie’s show-stopping “Friend Like Me” from Aladdin, or any number of beautifully performed quieter songs from other shows that gave me chills (Jesse Mueller’s touching opening number, “So Far Away,” from Beautiful: The Carole King Musical comes to mind).

What I’m picking, though, is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in any other Broadway show. For sheer awe-inducing theatricality, I have to go with “The Fight” in Rocky. It is such a feat of theater that trying to explain it in writing just doesn’t cut it. I’ll just say that I was on the edge of my seat and my jaw hit the floor! The final 20 minutes of that show blew my mind.bway14AC

What performance by an actor or actress did you enjoy the most this season?

Audra McDonald already has 5 Tony Awards for a reason. She is simply flawless in whatever she does. From her first few seconds as Billie Holliday in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, I was riveted by her performance. She so lost herself in the role that I sat there transfixed until the final blackout. And then, as if by magic, the lights came back on her her curtain call. Boom – just like that Billie had disappeared and Audra was back. She is just stunning.

Eileen – Travel Consultant

What is your must see show from the 2013-2014 season and why?

bway14EFI absolutely adored Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 which played Off-Broadway. They built their own theatre! I loved everything from the décor to the blocking to the music. This is the one show that has really stuck with me this year and I find myself going back to the cast recording every now and then.

What was musical number or song stopped the show for you this season?

Kelli O’Hara singing “Almost Real” in Bridges brought me to tears. Kelli O’Hara can infuse any song with heart but this song just tore me up – the heartbreak, the determination, the regret!

What performance by an actor or actress did you enjoy the most this season?

Even though he’s left the production – I thought Michel Urie worked his ass off in Buyer and Cellar. One man shows are hard but Urie tackled FIVE roles with incredible ease. He was the perfect amount of charm, heartache, and Barbra Streisand.

Jared – Concierge

What is your must see show from the 2013-2014 season and why?

Of the show’s I’ve already seen, I *loved* A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. It’s clever, cheeky, and a lot of fun, with an amazing cast and some beautiful music. Of the ones I’ve yet to see, I’m most looking forward to Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill because Audra McDonald can do no wrong!

What was musical number or song stopped the show for you this season?

aladdin“Friend Like Me” from Aladdin is one of the best showstoppers I’ve seen in several years. (There are fireworks! Onstage!!!) It got a standing ovation in the middle of the show.

What performance by an actor or actress did you enjoy the most this season?

Kelli O’Hara blew my mind in The Bridges of Madison County. A deeply felt, beautifully sung performance that was heart wrenching and utterly convincing. This is what Broadway level acting and singing sounds like. If she doesn’t win the Tony there’s no justice in the world.

Kelly – Manager of Group Services

What is your must-see show and why?

bway14KSOn Broadway, I absolutely LOVED A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. The music is fantastic – in a season that’s heavy on contemporary musical scores, this show has more of a classic Broadway feel, which I always enjoy. And the show is ridiculously funny – I had such a good time and laughed A LOT! Off Broadway, Heathers: the Musical really surprised me. Every once in awhile, a movie-to-musical remake is done right – and this one was so much fun. Deliciously campy, inappropriately funny, and full of memorable songs and performances by an amazing young cast – I loved it!

What musical number or song stopped the show for you this season?

Hands down the best score of the season is Jason Robert Brown’s The Bridges of Madison County. There are two songs in the second act that completely wrecked me – the beautiful duet “One Second and a Million Miles” sung by the incomparable Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale, and Pasquale’s final song “It All Fades Away.” I do not impress easily, and I was so moved and affected by these two songs that I could not sit still for the final 20 minutes of the show. I was blown away.

What performance by an actor or actress did you enjoy the most this season?

Beyond Steven Pasquale reducing me to tears in Bridges, my favorite performance of the season is Jessie Mueller in Beautiful: the Carole King Musical. The show itself is great – it’s everything I wanted Motown to be, yet just quite wasn’t – and Jessie Mueller is fantastic in the role of Carole King. Special mention of her costars as well – I adored Anika Larsen and Jarrod Specter as songwriting team and King’s close friends Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann.

Louise – Director of Operations

What is your must see show and why?

bway14LGIn the fall I was lucky enough to get tickets to Mr. Burns, A Post Electric Play at Playwrights Horizons, one of my favorite Off Broadway venues. I hope this show comes back sometime soon because it was the darkest, most intense, brilliant and thought-provoking piece of theater I have ever seen, and a terrifyingly plausible look at the way society and pop culture might evolve in the wake of a large-scale disaster. Many more people should have a chance to see it!

What was musical number or song stopped the show for you this season?

“‘Taint Nobody’s Bizness If I Do” from Bullets over Broadway. Tap dancing gangsters! What more do you need to know?

What performance by an actor or actress did you enjoy the most this season?

Jefferson Mays in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. The sheer non-stop energy and mind-boggling diversity of his performance is a sight to behold.

 

 

 

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Experience the Beauty of The Bridges of Madison County

by Kelly, Manager of Group & Partner Services

bridgesI’ll admit to being incredibly leery when I heard the news that The Bridges of Madison County was coming to Broadway (now playing at the Schoenfeld Theatre.)  Its source material once again bears the trend of Broadway’s liberal borrowing from the movies (the 1995 movie starred Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood,) which can be disastrous to say the least.  Then I heard that attached to this project was the greatest name I could have hoped to hear: Jason Robert Brown.

In the current Broadway landscape, you can’t throw a stick around Times Square without hitting a starry-eyed theatre lover who will tell you that Jason Robert Brown is one of the greatest composers on the scene.  A Tony winner for the score of his 1998 musical Parade, Brown may not known for his commercial success (case in point – Parade closed after only 39 previews and 85 performances.)  However, any singer worth their salt will beg to sing from his catalogue – Songs for a New World and The Last 5 Years have become wildly popular after their initial Off-Broadway runs (The Last 5 Years has especially blown up as of late – a revival of the work directed by Brown himself ran Off-Broadway in 2013 and a widely buzzed-about movie version starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan is currently in production.)  On Bridges, Brown partnered with book writer Marsha Norman (Pulitzer prize-winning playwright of ‘night, Mother, which will be revived in the 2015-16 Broadway season with Audra McDonald and Oprah,) hoping to bring some substance and beauty to the stage after a season littered with more light-hearted fare.

Bridges 4Bridges is based on the novel by Robert James Waller, which is one of the bestselling novels of the 20th century.  Francesca, an Italian war bride who moved to Iowa with an American GI, leads an unremarkable life, raising two children in a sleepy farm community.  While her family is away at the state fair, a free-spirited photographer named Robert Kinkaid (who is passing through shooting photos of the area’s covered bridges for National Geographic) stops for directions.  Over the next four days, Robert and Francesca share an intense and passionate affair, leaving Francesca questioning whether to embrace her newly awakened spirit and leave her family to run off with Robert, or stay as she was.

Bridges 3The vital and seemingly impossible-to-cast lead role of Francesca?  Cue another name that filled my heart with joy – Kelli O’Hara.  Known for her stunningly beautiful soprano and deep well of emotional theatre work, Tony nominee O’Hara is widely respected in the Broadway community.  Moving onto the scene in 2000 as a replacement lead in the original run of Jekyll & Hyde, O’Hara really garnered attention as she broke hearts as Clara in the Broadway run of A Light in the Piazza in 2005 (side note – seeing Piazza still remains to this day one of the most remarkable theatrical experiences of my life.)  Leading roles followed in The Pajama Game (with costar Harry Connick, Jr.), South Pacific, and Nice Work if You Can Get it.  O’Hara led the cast of Playwright Horizon’s Far From Heaven recently, then took some time off (missing Bridges’ out-of-town tryout) due to her pregnancy, re-joining the cast for their Broadway run.

O’Hara’s costar in Bridges is no stranger to chemistry with the leading lady.  Steven Pasquale shared the stage with O’Hara in Far From Heaven, as well created the role of Fabrizio in early stages of The Light in the Piazza.  The handsome leading man is often more recognizable from his TV work than his stage work – Pasquale could not move to Broadway with Piazza due to his role in FX’s hit series “Rescue Me,” and starred in the ill-fated NBC drama “Do No Harm.”  Bridges marks Pasquale’s Broadway musical debut.

Bridges 1With the immense pool of talent on and off stage, Bridges has a lot to live up to.  And live up it does.  O’Hara and Pasquale are greatly matched vocally – both technically as well as in sheer emotion.  Their second act duet “Before and After You/One Second & a Million Miles” is the defining moment of the show, an emotionally rousing and soaring piece that stopped the performance right in its tracks.  The chemistry between the two leads combined with their vocal ability raise the genius of Brown’s score to another level entirely.  And what a score it is.  Brown blends the traditional and lightly operatic with folksy tunes and charging contemporary melodies to create a night of breathtaking power mixed with vulnerability – an astonishing mix to behold.  Another song of note is “Another Life,” sung by Robert’s ex-wife Marian, an echo of the trials their marriage endured, counterbalanced by the audience glimpsing the spark of a new relationship beginning between Robert and Francesca.  Beyond the aforementioned duet, I was truly moved by Robert’s final song “It All Fades Away.”  A song of true longing, I was actually unable to sit still in my seat as Pasquale sang Robert’s final offering of devotion and love.

Bridges 2Obviously, the true gem of this production is the score and its cast.  If any small criticism is offered, it would be that the production could have been done in a simpler manner – the meat of the story is between our two lovers, and this production chose to flesh out the world around them with time spent on Francesca’s family – husband Bud (a perfectly cast Hunter Foster in his first role after the gone-too-soon Hands on a Hardbody) and children Michael (Derek Klena – a favorite of mine since his turn as Eddie Birdlace in the brilliant Dogfight at Second Stage) and Carolyn (Caitlin Kinnunen), as well as their comic relief neighbors Marge (Cass Morgan), and Charlie (Michael X. Martin.)  Though wanting to spend time with the secondary characters to expand the world of Winterset, Iowa makes perfect sense, some may argue that it wasn’t necessary.  I, personally, did not mind the short forays into the world outside Francesca’s farmhouse, viewing the scenes and songs as a bit of a palate cleanser to prepare us for the next course our couple had to offer.

The bottom line is that in reality, no one should be rooting for this couple to succeed – after all, Francesca is a married woman with a stable, kind husband and two growing children…and she’s known Robert for the blink of an eye.  But the sizzle of chemistry between Pasquale and O’Hara combined with the beauty and humanity of Brown’s score leaves you sympathizing with the pair – after all, who hasn’t been lonely or felt out of sorts until they connected with someone else on an instant and deeper level?  At the end of the evening, I found myself mentally packing Francesca’s bags – after all, how could you resist the pull of love and the feeling of completeness when you’ve found someone who truly awakens your spirit?  But I am not Francesca, and I cannot reveal which road she chooses to follow – you will have to find that out for yourself when you see this magnificent show.  Bring tissues – you’re going to need them.

Interested in experiencing the passion and beauty of The Bridges of Madison County for yourself?  Email me at kshoemaker@newyorkguest.com or contact the New York Guest office at 212-302-4019212-302-4019 for tickets.

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