An Affair to Remember — Kelli O'Hara and Steven Pasquale Talk The Bridges of Madison County

By Marc Acito
10 Feb 2014

Kelli O
Kelli O
Photo by Joan Marcus

Tony nominee Kelli O'Hara and "Rescue Me" star Steven Pasquale chat with about playing onstage lovers for the second time around.


When television heartthrob Steven Pasquale locks lips with four-time Tony nominee Kelli O'Hara onstage in The Bridges of Madison County, audiences will witness a kiss over a decade in the making.

The stars of the new musical have led a star-crossed path. In the original 2003 Seattle production of The Light in the Piazza, Pasquale, as the romantic Italian Fabrizio, wooed Celia Keenan-Bolger as Clara, while O'Hara played the secondary role of Franca. By the time the show came to New York in 2005, O'Hara had moved to her star-making turn as Clara, but Pasquale was no longer available, having landed the role of firefighter Sean Garrity on the television series "Rescue Me." Pasquale's seven seasons on that show kept him away from O'Hara until last year, when the pair finally played opposite one another in Far From Heaven at Playwrights Horizons. Due to their characters' loveless marriage, however, their lips barely touched for a passionless peck.

Any plans to break out the breath mints for the first production of Bridges in Williamstown, MA, last summer were foiled when the birth of O'Hara's second child prevented her from taking part.

Reunited at last, O'Hara and Pasquale sat down with Playbill on the set of Bridges, cozying up on a Midwestern diner banquette set adrift in a rehearsal studio, the lights of 42nd Street blinking incongruously just outside the window. The two are clearly comfortable together, shoulders touching, O'Hara completely unruffled by having had this reporter accidentally walk in on her moments before while pumping breast milk. As the mother of a newborn, she's pumped at the White House, the Kennedy Center, the Metropolitan Opera "and pretty much any bathroom in New York City."

O'Hara's sense of ease and calm permeates a rehearsal atmosphere that can often fizz with panic, a principle she learned from John Lithgow while playing a supporting role in 2002's Sweet Smell of Success. "On and offstage," she explained, "the air and the energy starts from the top and it can cloud it incredibly badly or it can lift you up."

Indeed, it was O'Hara, plus the Tony Award–winning trio of director Bartlett Sher, book writer Marsha Norman and composer Jason Robert Brown that sold Pasquale before he read a word or heard a note. "This could have been a project called Poop and I would have gotten involved with those four people," he said.

"Please, let's do a production of Poop very soon," deadpanned O'Hara.


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