Dundalk Community Theatre has a history of producing high-quality musicals with first rate talent, great sets and spot-on direction. In “The Bridges of Madison County,” they definitely have the talent (most notably Nancy Asendorf in the lead role), the sets are cleverly minimalistic thanks to Scenic Designer Marc W. Smith, and director Todd Pearthree uses the ensemble effectively particularly when moving set pieces during the many scene changes.
The story is based on the 1992 best-selling novel by Robert James Waller about Francesca, an Italian war bride, who marries the dull but stable American GI Bud in order to escape war-torn Naples. It is now 1965 and Bud and the kids are away at the Iowa State Fair when National Geographic photographer Robert Kincaid appears on Francesca’s doorstep ostensibly for directions to a local covered bridge. However, it soon becomes apparent that there is a definite attraction between rugged Robert and the frustrated Francesca.
If you are looking for a musical that is entertaining and clever, then you will find DCT’s ‘The Bridges of Madison County’ an enjoyable diversion.
Even if you have not read the book, you may be familiar with the 1995 film of the same name starring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep. For the DCT production, Nancy Asendorf and Tom Burns are Francesca and Robert who spend a good deal of time in the first act trying to deny their attraction to each other before they finally consummate their feelings. They sing about bridges and love and various things but, quite frankly, while the music and lyrics are pleasant, you will not be humming them when you leave the theatre.
What really makes this production worthwhile are the vocal talents of the cast and the well-staged settings. As already mentioned, Asendorf truly stands out for both her amazing vocal talent and acting abilities. Although her husband Bud (Jeff Burch) and children (Emily Signor and William Bryant) mean a lot to her, Francesca is torn as she contemplates leaving them for the adventurous life that Robert represents. Asendorf compellingly conveys Francesca’s dilemma and really makes the character come to life.
Other standouts in the cast include Tom Burns’ smooth as silk vocal stylings, Jeff Burch who embodies the caring yet dull farmer Bud, and Ken Ewing and Tiffany Walker Porta Burrows who earn well-deserved laughs as Francesca’s nosy next-door neighbors.
Also worth noting, besides Smith’s great set pieces, are his sound and lighting designs which give an added dimension of authenticity to the production. Speaking of which, Costumer Eva Grove’s spot-on period clothing really captures the feel of 1960s Mid-Western America. Musical Director Glenette Schumacher does a very capable job with her talented group of pit musicians who breathe life into the show’s score.
While director Pearthree does have his cast use the stage well throughout the show, the timing could be a little tighter as there were a few times when the pacing did drag. If you are looking for a musical that is entertaining and clever, then you will find DCT’s ‘The Bridges of Madison County’ an enjoyable diversion.
Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with one 15 minute intermission.
Advisory: Adult themes
‘The Bridges of Madison County’ runs through November 5, 2017, at the John E. Ravekes Theatre in the College Community Center at the Community College of Baltimore County Dundalk Campus, 7200 Sollers Point Road in Baltimore, MD 21222. For tickets call the box office at (443) 840-2787 or purchase them online.