Monthly Archives: March 2019

Review Number TWO for “The Bridges of Madison County”

Western Reserve Playhouse brings love story to stage

3/7/2019 – West Side Leader
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By David Ritchey

‘Bridges of Madison County’ features strong acting

Dawn Sniadak-Yamokoski (Francesca) and Rob Albrecht (Robert) star in Western Reserve Playhouse’s “The Bridges of Madison County.”
Photo: Chris Douglas

BATH — “The Bridges of Madison County” is now playing at Western Reserve Playhouse through March 16.“The Bridges of Madison County” is based on the novel by Robert James Waller. The book for this musical version was written by Marsha Norman, who received the Pulitzer Prize for “’night, Mother.” The music and lyrics are by Jason Robert Brown, who received the Tony Award for this score in 2014.

This is the first stage production of the musical version of this play in this area of the state. The music helps open the story line from what was told in the novel and in the movie.

The show is about Iowa housewife Francesca and her life-changing, four-day whirlwind romance with traveling photographer Robert Kincaid.

Francesca (Dawn Sniadak-Yamokoski), a native of Italy, met her husband, Bud (Kevin Myers), when he was stationed in Italy during World War II. She wanted to see the world and thought her way to explore the world was with an American soldier. Bud was lonely and married Francesca and took her home to the U.S.

This version of the production starts more than 20 years after the end of World War II. Francesca and Bud have two children and a large vegetable garden. Francesca doesn’t get to see the world. She gets to see Des Moines and the neighbors are kind and dull. Francesca’s daughter, Carolyn (Kaity Poschner) has raised a steer, which will be exhibited in the state fair. If the steer wins the top prize, the award money will pay for her college education. So, Bud, Carolyn and Michael, her brother (Cameron Zona), leave for the state fair.

As they leave, a truck pulls into the driveway. It’s Robert Kincaid (Rob Albrecht), a photographer for National Geographic. He’s lost and needs someone to help him find one of the covered bridges of Madison County. He has been places and has an interesting career. He is intriguing to Francesca. She agrees to ride with him and point out the route to the bridge he can’t find.

After they find the bridge, he goes home with her and they make dinner together.

Her family will be at the state fair for four days. Their affair starts and has limited time and plenty of heat. He asks her to leave with him. What’s a woman to do?

The pit orchestra is small but does an excellent job of supporting the singers.

The musicians are Bryan Bird and Dave Stebbins (keyboards); Alex Kenrick-Kupiec and Chandler Carpenter (guitar); and Kate Robarge (cello).

Set designer Patrick Ciamacco created a functional set that helps tell the story in a cinematic style.

Director Sarah Coon makes good use of the small set and deals well with the complicated, female-focused plot. Coon has a talented cast, all of whom have extensive experience singing.

Sniadak-Yamokoski and Albrecht have strong, lovely singing voices. Others in the cast also hold their own as singers.

For tickets, call 330-620-7314 or visit westernreserveplayhouse.org.

 

David Ritchey has a Ph.D. in communications and is a professor emeritus of communications at The University of Akron. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and the Cleveland Critics Circle.

Review Number One for “The Bridges of Madison County”

Photo Credit: Chris Douglas

The tension is so palpable in a scene where Francesca feeds a stranger dinner in “The Bridges of Madison County,” it’s almost unbearable at Western Reserve Playhouse.

But in this beautifully performed scene between Dawn Sniadak-Yamokoski and Rob Albrecht, it’s not just sexual tension between striking, middle-aged Italian woman Francesca and ruggedly handsome National Geographic photographer Robert. Under the direction of Sarah Coon, it feels as if something very important needs to be said between these kindred souls, who have just met that day but are almost immediately finishing each other’s sentences.

The musical by Marsha Norman and Jason Robert Brown, based on the best-selling 1992 romance novel by Robert James Waller, premiered on Broadway in 2014, where it won Tony Awards for best original score and best orchestrations. The book also was adapted into a 1995 film starring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep.

In the local production, which continues through March 17, Sniadak-Yamokoski and Albrecht create an arresting chemistry. In this story about a lonely war bride on an Iowa farm and an equally lonely itinerant photographer, we see by the fluttery way that Francesca touches her neck and hair that her world is upended the minute Robert walks into it.

Sniadak-Yamokoski sings in lush operatic style in the opening number “To Build a Home,” which tells of her running away from Italy with American soldier Bud. She recounts her journey to life on a farm in Iowa, a life she never dreamed of. Audiences learn that Francesca has given up on her own dreams and taken on the roles of wife and mother. But for 18 years, she has never asked for anything or complained.

Both Francesca and Robert are artistic souls who connect through his photography and her yearning for her homeland, which he has recently visited. They don’t realize they were hungry for meaningful human connection until they meet each other, when each experiences a reawakening.

One of the most beautiful scenes in the musical is the sultry “Falling Into You,” in which they open their hearts to each other. Sniadak-Yamokoski and Albrecht’s voices complement each other beautifully in this duet. Throughout the show, Sniadak-Yamokoski makes graceful use of her arms as her character embraces Robert.

This show about an extramarital affair is sensual but never lurid. Through Coon’s sensitive direction and Brown’s gorgeous score, we understand both of the lovers’ hearts.

The orchestra, led by Bryan Bird and Dave Stebbins on keyboards, also features Alex Kenrick-Kupiec on guitar and Kate Robarge in a beautiful cello part. This backstage ensemble strikes a good sound balance.

Other actors who give nice turns are Kevin Michael Myers as Bud in the ballad “Something from a Dream,” in which he reveals his original awestruck love for Francesca, and Bernadette Hisey as nosy neighbor Marge. For tickets to this musical, which is seldom produced locally, see www.westernreserveplayhouse.org.