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Hermetically sealed inside the idyllic heartland like a Kraft Single, The Bridges of Madison County is the most delicious kind of cheese. Intimately staged in Theo Ubique’s new digs in Evanston, this fish-out-of-water musical follows homesick Italian immigrant Francesca as she wilts on the vine from the boredom of pleasant domesticity in Iowa. When her husband and two kids leave her home alone for a long weekend, hunky photographer Robert Kincaid conveniently shows up at her house to ask for directions.
What happens next is as predictable as any Hallmark TV movie, yet the story transcends cliche by remembering that great romance is about savoring the journey, not worrying about the destination. A refreshing rebuke to modern rom-coms led by bumbling man-children and their maddeningly simple paramours, this is a story about complex, mature adults. Leads Kelli Harrington and Tommy Thurston bring a smoldering gravitas to their performances that makes the story believable and delicious. Kate Harris and Randolph Johnson provide refreshing comic relief as an old busybody couple, and Carl Herzog shines as simple farm husband Bud, finding thoughtful levels in a role that could be one-note. The cast is made up of extremely talented singers, but Harrington’s spectacular soprano is a standout.
Set against a pleasantly drowsy score gorgeously played by a five-piece orchestra led by music director Jeremy Ramey, this production sweeps you up in the magic and leaves your heart warm and fuzzy in its afterglow. v