“The Bridges of Madison County,” based on the 1992 novel by Robert James Waller, comes to the MCT Center for the Performing Arts in Missoula, March 9-19. The Missoula Community Theatre stages the poignant play, brought to the stage by the Tony Award-winning Duo of Marsha Norman (book) and Jason Robert Brown (music score and orchestrations). The musical will both inspire and pull at the heartstrings of anyone who has ever wondered “what if?”
Andy Meyers, Missoula native and long-time collaborator with MCT and numerous other theatres, is the director and choreographer, with previous productions of this show under his belt at the Fort Peck Summer Theatre (where he serves as the artistic director) and the Arizona Broadway Theatre.
Meyers rates the music as “one of the top five musical scores I’ve ever heard.”
The music director is Courtney Crary, who served as an adjunct voice professor at Rocky Mountain College in Billings and New York University, played Maria in MCT’s “West Side Story” and performed in ALL TOGETHER NOW! Broadway revue.
“The Bridges of Madison County,” set in 1965, follows the story of Italian-American Francesca Johnson (Angela Billadeau), a WWII immigrant bride, turned lonely heartland housewife. A chance meeting with Robert Kincaid (Royce McIntosh), a National Geographic photographer, sparks a moment in time when unexpected circumstances connect them in a way they didn’t plan, aren’t prepared for and may not even understand.
Marriages are intimate, complex relationships; Francesca is not unhappy, and her husband Bud (Thomas Hensley) is a good man, yet Francesca and Robert fall into a brief, extra-marital affair while Bud is away at the Iowa State Fair.
“The show is rated PG-13 because the characters grapple with the topics of war, cultural differences and alcohol, and not because of the affair,” says Meyers. “The emphasis will be more on the romantic aspect and not sexual. In fact, I will make sure that I’m comfortable sitting in the audience with my parents.”
The cast includes many experienced actors and singers “who look forward to performing this rich, demanding score,” he adds.
Nine musicians perform on stage, playing violin, viola, guitar, cello and drums. That approach gives the lead characters, Francesca and Robert, “the feeling that, like the neighbors of the small town, there are always eyes on them.”
Bridges is MCT’s Zero Waste production this season, meaning the company will strive to reuse and recycle as much as possible. Scenic designer Shy Iverson built the set last summer for Fort Peck’s production, and designed it to allow even the scene changes to be choreographed, “almost ballet-like in nature,” says Meyers.
Performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays and 2 and 6:30 p.m. Sundays through March 19.
Tickets are available online, by calling 406-728-7529 (PLAY) or at the MCT Box Office, open from noon-5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays.