Many love stories have been told, but certain couples stand out amongst the fray. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy; Wesley and Buttercup; and Jack and Kate are just a few famous duos with dramatic and heart-wrenching stories that are known by all. The names Francesca and Robert are soon to be added to that list, with their whirlwind, romantic love story the center of the Wharton Center’s latest feature Broadway Musical, The Bridges of Madison County.
Based on the book written by Robert James Waller, Bridges of Madison County is the love story of an Iowa housewife, Francesca, and Robert, a travelling photographer. When the two meet unexpectedly, a storm of emotions takes over, causing a conflict of interests between responsibility and desire. Combined with an emotional story and sensational score, Bridges of Madison County is sweeping audiences off their feet around the country.
“It’s easy to think musicals are over the top, but this isn’t one of those stories,” said Elizabeth Stanley, who plays the lead role of Francesca. “It’s not like that at all. Bridges of Madison County functions much more like a play, telling the story of Francesca and Robert with the help of powerful music.”
The show features music by Jason Robert Brown, a Tony Award-winning composer (known for his work in Parade and The Last Five Years). Keeping in line with the story, the music has an American-folk sound while still bringing the drama that Broadway productions are known for.
“The thing that you will probably hear and love are really beautiful melodies and very earthy, folky orchestrations,” said Stanley. “My character [Francesca] is from Italy and there are many moments when there’s sort of a classical feel, with a cello in the background. Then there’s Robert, who’s American and from Texas, a classic wanderer. His sound has lots of guitar and violin, giving you the sense of movement and travel.”
Besides the music, Bridges of Madison County has become known for its minimalist sets that tell the tone of the story while letting the performers shine.
“Since the show takes place in Iowa in the 60s, the set is kept simple to help tell the story,” said Stanley. “It really invites the audience to use their imagination and go along with the storytelling of the show.”
Stanley is a life-long performer of the arts, taking a liking to music when she was a child and then migrating into other mediums later on.
“I was very into music first as a kid,” said Stanley. “I played the piano and was in band and took voice lessons. I always really liked theater too. Once I got to college I got more into theater and became friends with people who were performing and truly began to love it. This role in particular is a blend of everything I love. It’s a beautiful score, which I get to sing to, combined with a fabulous, classic role. I couldn’t be more excited.”
Whether you’re a seasoned theatre goer or a newcomer to live performances, Bridges of Madison County is sure to please. Bridges of Madison County will be at the Wharton Center for performing arts May 19-22. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit whartoncenter.com.