The Bridges of Madison County – The Ghent Playhouse – Review

Written by on April 13, 2024

The Bridges of Madison County – The Ghent Playhouse – Review – by Joanna Palladino.

Love is Better Indeed: The Bridges of Madison County at The Ghent Playhouse is a Musical Theater Production Full of Heart

The Bridges of Madison County is a musical based on Robert James Waller’s 1992 novel and the subsequent 1995 movie starring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep.  For those of you who have never read the book or seen the movie, The Bridges of Madison County takes place in Winterset, Iowa, in 1965. Robert Kincaid, a photographer on assignment for National Geographic,  has come to Madison County, Iowa to take pictures of historic covered bridges. He stops to ask directions and meets Francesca Johnson, an Italian war bride transplanted to Iowa following her marriage.  Her husband and two kids are away at the State Fair and she and Robert  have an intense love affair during the four days her family is away.   Their love remains over the years, while everything else in their lives fades.

The Ghent Playhouse delivers a heart-rending production of The Bridges of Madison County.  The production is tender, sweet, passionate, heart wrenching, nostalgic, and yet still timeless.  The cast does an incredible job exploring all of the varied ways we love and how powerful love can be in our lives.  While some may consider The Bridges of Madison County pure sap, the production at The Ghent Playhouse is so earnest the romanticism is never cheesy or insincere.

Directors Michael C. Mensching and Michael McDermott, supported by the Musical Direction of Ellen Rizzo, did an exceptional job striking the perfect balance of beautiful singing, quality acting, and an overall quality production.  This large ensemble cast was a joy to watch.  Every cast member delivered performances full of heart, soul, and care. Nate Beynon, Erika Duraski, Linda Thorburn, and Katie K. Snyder were all-in and each were given opportunities to shine throughout the production.  Maria Clark stood out and seemed to radiate pure joy as a member of the ensemble.  Molly McClarnon’s delivery as Marian was a show stopper.  Carols Vazquez as Michael and Amelia Scheriff as Carolyn (Francesca’s children) were simply adorable – and did an incredible job morphing into young adults as the show unfolds.  Chelsea Beatty (Marge) and Bill Douglas (Charlie) provided comic relief and also delivered some of the most touching scenes in the show.  William Wright Heatley (Robert Kincaid) and Jeffrey Jene (Bud Johnson) do an incredible job playing the love interests of Francesca.  They are strong, vulnerable, and support the performance of TracyLynn Conner (Francesca) without overpowering her.  TracyLynn Conner’s portrayal of Francesca was moving and her voice was beautifully operatic as well.  Some of the most notable performances of the evening included Molly McClarnon’s Another Life, William Wright Heatley and TracyLynn Conner’s duets of Falling Into You and One Second and a Million Miles, Bill Douglas and Jeffrey Jene (with ensemble support) singing When I’m Gone, and the tear jerker It All Fades Away delivered with perfect simplicity by William Wright Heatley.

Kudos to set designers Michael OKeeffe and Ed Dignum for creating a set that allows Francesca to travel through space and time.   The entire production also deserves recognition for all of their hard work and great contributions.  A special recognition to the exquisite live musicians (pit band) that supported the cast perfectly – never overpowering and just the right level of support:  Ellen Rizzo, Joanne Mensching, and Josiah Myatt.

Another excellent job by Sound Designer Joshua Hororwitz whose selection of pre-show and intermission music complemented the music performed on the stage.  Horowitz wanted to select music that would lend itself well to the operatic voice of  Francesca as well as the jazzy selection, Get Closer, delivered by Marge.  Horowitz wanted to send the audience on a wonderful ride of orchestral melodies, with some folk indie feel as well. The preshow music included several selections from the album French Impressions featuring David Lanz and Kristin Amarie, providing sullen and solitary notes on the piano. The intermission playlist branched out to include: A Room of One’s Own by Rosemary and Garlic, Frames by Rosemary and Garlic Time After Time by Eva Cassidy, Wandering Child by Wild Rivers, What The World Needs Now is Love by Jackie DeShannon, Rain by George Winston. During the show itself, Horowitz faced the challenge of how to represent all of the locations outside of Francesca’s house, and used sound to help transport the audience and the telephone to help the audience return home with Francesca as well.

The Bridges of Madison County at The Ghent Playhouse is a lovely night of musical theater and worth every second of the drive.  On your way home from the theater, listen to Jeff Beck’s version of ‘Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers – it’s the perfect ending to a simply enchanting night.  

Performance dates are Friday–Sunday (April 12-14, April 19-21, and April 26-28) Curtains are at 7:30 pm, and Sundays are matinees only at 2:00 pm.  Tickets are $28 for non-members and $12 for students.

Tickets are available online through The Ghent Playhouse website – visit for more information.




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