PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, June 1-7: Mark Rylance to Bring Gender-Bending Shakespeare to NYC, Far From Heaven Opens

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07 Jun 2013

Jason Robert Brown
Jason Robert Brown

Today's young generation is too fresh to this planet to know a time when you couldn't escape the title "The Bridges of Madison County." Published in 1992 by an unknown author named Robert James Waller, the story about a brief, four-day love affair between a National Geographic photographer and an Italian-American housewife in 1965 Iowa became an unexpected runaway smash.

It was the best-selling book of 1993, and flew off the shelves at such a rate that, for years, it was only available in hardcover. It remained on The New York Times bestsellers list for three full years. Critics berated the prose and the plot as contrived and trite, but the novel sold 50 million copies, making it one of the biggest sellers of the 20th century. In 1995, Clint Eastwood directed and starred with Meryl Streep in a movie adaptation.

It's been a good decade or so since "Bridges" has been a part of the national conversation, but that's about to change. Jason Robert Brown has seen fit to turn the book into a musical, and producers have seen fit to back it. The Bridges of Madison County will arrive on Broadway in January 2014, lead producers Jeffrey Richards, Stacey Mindich and Jerry Frankel announced June 6.

The new musical will first premiere at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in August. It will arrive on Broadway Jan. 13, 2014 at the Schoenfeld Theatre. An opening night has been set for late February.

Director Bartlett Sher, who has a way with sumptuous musical staging (South Pacific, The Light in the Piazza) will stage the project. Casting will, of course, be critical, and has not yet been announced. Kelli O'Hara — who would have been the fairest, blondest Italian woman ever — had originally been attached to star in the Williamstown production, but she is expecting her second child later this summer.


In other Broadway news, Mark Rylance, who can barely touch a foot to a Broadway stage without winning a Tony Award, will return to town this fall in not one, but two, roles.

Rylance will star on Broadway in two very different roles: as the suddenly love-struck noblewoman Olivia in Twelfth Night and as the title monarch in Richard III. You read the first part right; as artistic director of The Globe in London, Rylance often adhered to the Shakespearean habit of taking on women's roles in the Bard's plays.


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