The Theatreguide.London Review
Bridges of Madison County
Menier Chocolate Factory Summer 2019
This is an adequate little musical with nothing much to say against it and almost as little to say for it.
As long as you do not expect much that is original, much that will surprise you or much that you will remember a month from now, you will have a pleasant evening.
This is of course the bittersweet love story based on the successful novel and film about a discontented farm wife who meets a man who talks to horses – oh, wait, that's the other one.
This one is about the discontented farm wife who meets a man who takes photographs of old wooden bridges.
You can fill in the rest, and I assure you that even if you've never read the book or seen the film there is not a single thing about the show that you can't predict.
The musical's book by Marsha Norman and songs by Jason Robert Brown add little and occasionally cause minor problems.
The housewife played by Jenna Russell falls for the visitor instantly, before we've even had a chance to discover anything particularly attractive about him.
So the script has to play catch-up for a while, rushing in the news that he's a vegetarian, plays the guitar and worries about the Meaning Of Life, and even inserting a song about what a special guy he is – sung by his ex-wife, no less.
At just-short-of-three-hours the fragile little show goes on too long, and you can spot the moment (It involves ice cream) when it wants to end.
But it lingers for a half-hour coda (and three more songs) about what happens to everyone for the rest of their lives that would not have been missed.
Jason Robert Brown's songs are generic and never more than serviceable. The best are the two big duets for the lovers, Falling Into You and Just One Second, and there's a lively State Fair hoedown number that has nothing to do with anything else and can't help seeming to have wandered in from some other show.
Jenna Russell works admirably to make the woman come alive, and succeeds largely by filling in all the other elements of the woman's life beyond her romance.
Stuck with a character who is more symbol than human being, Edward Baker-Duly sings well and looks right. He has been wigged and bearded to resemble Keith Carradine in Nashville, and his rugged-but-boyish sexy-hippie look does most of his acting for him.
Director Trevor Nunn keeps things moving, and Jon Bausor's design, involving unobtrusive revolves, moving sets and projections, contributes to the fluidity.
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