“This is a good time for this piece to be in this city,”director Kurt Boehm says of The Bridges of Madison County, now onstage at Keegan Theatre. No matter what side of the political aisle you are on, you can’t deny there’s an underbelly of hate going on. This show does the opposite and gives a permission to love, no matter what the circumstances.”
Despite big Broadway talents Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale, and Tony Award wins for Best Score and Orchestrations, The Bridges of Madison County lasted only 137 performances on Broadway in 2014. Considering its source material was a best-selling book by Robert James Waller and critically acclaimed movie starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood, expectations were obviously a bit higher.
“On a Broadway scale, I think the show needs to feel more intimate,” says Boehm says. “That’s why I think this will work so well in Keegan’s space. It’s right there, as if you are watching a movie. You need to feel the pulse of what the character is going through and on the Broadway stage or a tour, it just seems so far away.”
With a book by Marsha Norman and music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, The Bridges of Madison County is a lovely romantic tale about a photographer and a housewife—soulmates who met a little too late in their life’s journeys.
The show stars Susan Derry and Dan Felton as lovebirds Francesca and Robert, and the cast also includes Chad Wheeler, MaryKate Brouillet, Kathy Fuller, Paul Tonden, Carson Collins and Lily Warner.
On the first day the cast was fully assembled, Boehm described the direction the show would go.
“We’re living in a time where it feels there’s so much permission to hate, and I want audiences to have the permission to love. To me, that’s the crux of this show. Even though there’s this journey that Francesca goes on—and it is intense as she is married and finds this man in four days—there’s sympathy and compassion and empathy for their story.”
The Bridges of Madison County
at Keegan Theatre Company
closes September 2, 2018
Details and tickets
Boehm knew the movie and read the book years ago, but it was the music that really spoke to him. “When The Bridges of Madison County first came out, I just fell in love with the music. My fiancé and I listened to it and loved it,” Boehm says. “One specific song, ‘It All Fades Away’ especially.
“Ever since college, I have had such a love for Jason Robert Brown. Even as a singer myself, his music makes you feel so many things as you’re singing it.”
Still, he understands how important this story is to many and says that fans of the book or movie won’t be disappointed.
“The bones of the movie and book are there. It’s still the same story but musically, it makes it go on a different journey,” he says. “We see the passage of time, especially in Act 2, which veers away from the movie for one big sequence. There’s more depth there and a longer period of time.”
The challenge of doing a show like this is that there are so many different locations needed as the action revolves around the different bridges Robert visits.
“That has been a challenge in staging, because it moves quick, from the car to the house to the bridges,” the director says. “We have some tricks up our sleeves. Part is projection but I want to surprise the audience with what else we came up with.”
There’s a line spoken by Francesca at the very end of the show that goes “But what is true is that we loved, and that I loved and that I love and I will always love and love is always better.”
“That’s the crux of the show. That’s what it all means,” Boehm says. “I think relationships are complicated and I’m not sure I believe that the idea of one soulmate is true. She loved her husband and loves her children and Bud’s not a bad guy at all, but she found this soulmate in Robert.”
Growing up in a musical family in Maple Shade, N.J., Boehm started singing in a church choir, and really gravitated towards theater in high school and college. He’s been in our area for 17 years and as someone who acts, choreographs and directs, Boehm stays plenty busy in the D.C. theater landscape.
“Since graduating from Catholic University, I have had a nice balance of working—teaching, choreographing, acting, directing—and it’s allowed me to stay in the business all around town,” he says. “I may be originally from outside Philadelphia, but now I’m also from here.”
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