PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: The Bridges of Madison County — Caught Between a Hard Rock and a Place

By Harry Haun
21 Feb 2014

Buy this Limited Collector's Edition

"You know, it was a hard show to figure out how to end in a lot of ways," confessed the composer. "You don't want to end with, 'Oh, it's sad. They wanted to be together, and they never were.' Marsha said, 'How do you solve the problem of happy but dead?' It took us a long time to figure out what we wanted to say in the show."

Brown remembered the day the whole show came together for them. "We'd just written a bad version of it, and Marsha walked out the door to go to the elevator, and then I heard a knock at the door just as I was coming up with a musical idea. She came in and said, 'What if... ?' I said, 'That's exactly what I just wrote down. Look.' The two of us had the idea at the same time. This is what the show needs to say again. We sat there and just cried our way through the last few notes of the show."

He presents this eureka! moment as kismet, but much experience went into to it. "I've had a lot of years of learning how to do this now. I like to think that somewhere between Songs for a New World and Parade and The Last Five Years and 13, I sorta figured out how to use all that language and let it all keep growing and building."

Both O'Hara and Pasquale are in superb voice, particularly in the song that seals their love at the end of Act I, "[All My Life, I've Been] Falling Into You." Whew!

If you ask Pasquale his favorite of the score, he doesn't hesitate a beat. "The duet in Act II, 'One Second & a Million Miles More,' the most extraordinary music I ever heard."

To create the love of a lifetime, it helps to have an old friend to play to. O'Hara and Pasquale have known each other since they were in 2005's The Light in the Piazza, but, by the time she was upgraded to his lover, he was off to TV land for seven years of "Rescue Me." They reunited, not very amorously, last year as husband and wife in Far From Heaven.

Restored to her natural blondeness (from a brown Italian wig), O'Hara mustered some sparkle at the party to mask her exhaustion. "We want the audience to be in agreement with the choices that my character makes," she said. "If I wasn't able to do what I do, I think people would relate to that and they know how that would feel."

To this end, playwright Norman pitches her a desperately evocative line that explains the plight of an isolated Italian war-bride in the Iowan cornbelt: "I ran away from home, and I can't get back." Also, almost as a throwaway, the character is caught sketching and explains she was an art student, who, much against her will, turned into something else. (When Mike Nichols discovered that Mrs. Robinson had been an art student, that salient little fact convinced him to direct "The Graduate.")