Philadelphia Theatre Company announces the director and full cast for the Philadelphia premiere of Marsha Norman and Jason Robert Brown’s sweeping musical version of the best-selling novel, The Bridges of Madison County. The production is the second of the inaugural season under Producing Artistic Director Paige Price. For Bridges, Price has tapped Mark Martino to direct a cast rich with local theatre stars and Barrymore Award-winners, alongside actors with notable national and Broadway credits. The cast is led by Philadelphia actress Sarah Gliko and PA Native and Broadway actor Gregg Goodbrod. Recent Barrymore Award winner Amanda Morton (Passing Strange, Wilma Theater) will serve as the Music Director. The Bridges of Madison County runs February 8-March 3, 2019 at Philadelphia Theatre Company’s stage at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre, 480 S. Broad Street. Single tickets and subscriptions are on sale now and available at the box office, online at philatheatreco.org or by phone at 215-985-0420.
Following the Pennsylvania premiere of Sweat by Lynn Nottage, Philadelphia Theatre Company continues its 44th Season with The Bridges of Madison County. The show is based on the 1992 best-selling novel by Robert James Waller. In 1995, the book was adapted into an Academy Award and Golden Globe-nominated movie directed by Clint Eastwood, starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. In 2014, the team of multiple TONY Award winner Jason Robert Brown (The Last Five Years, Parade, Songs for a New World) and Pulitzer Prize and TONY Award winner Marsha Norman (‘Night Mother, The Color Purple) brought the story to the stage. The show went on to win two Drama Desk Awards for Music and Orchestration and two TONY Awards for Best Original Score and Best Orchestrations.
The Bridges of Madison County is a lush musical that captures the lyrical expanse of America’s heartland along with the yearning entangled in the eternal question “What if…?” It is the touching story of Francesca Johnson, a beautiful Italian woman who married an American soldier to flee war-ravaged Italy. She is looking forward to a rare weekend alone on her Iowa farm while her family heads to the 1965 State Fair. Soon after they depart, ruggedly handsome National Geographic photographer Robert Kincaid pulls into her driveway seeking directions. What happens in those four days between the two may well alter the course of Francesca’s life forever. Audiences will get swept away by this unforgettable story of two people caught between loyalty and desire, as a chance encounter could change everything. This sweeping tale about the roads we travel, the doors we open and the bridges we dare to cross will leave Philadelphia audiences breathless.
“The story that’s told in the musical is, for me, so much more heartbreaking and real on stage. People familiar with the book or movie will expect something a little more predictable, but they will find plenty of surprises in the stage version. Just as Sweat was unflinching, so goes The Bridges of Madison County,” said Price. “I can promise our audiences – you will FEEL something. That’s what I’m excited about. There are some shows you program and you know you’re going to be in the theatre watching every night. For me, this is one of them,” said Price.
For the Philadelphia premiere of Bridges, Price tapped her longtime colleague Mark Martino to direct. Martino is a New York-based director and choreographer, who has worked at many of the nation’s leading theatres. Martino’s professional relationship with Price began at Theatre Aspen, where he directed 10 productions, including Hairspray, Cabaret, Peter and the Starcatcher, Little Shop of Horrors, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Avenue Q, Les Misérables, The Full Monty, Mamma Mia!, and Ragtime. He has directed and choreographed for many of North America’s leading symphony orchestras as well, including The Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Naples, Edmonton, and Toronto Symphonies and the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center with the concerts Gotta Dance! and Those Glorious MGM Musicals. Film, television directing, and choreography credits include NBC’s The Miss America Pageant, the feature film Rock ‘N’ Roll Hotel, and the nationally syndicated PBS Christmas special Count Your Blessings.
“Mark and I have a long relationship that goes back at least ten years at Theatre Aspen,” said Price. “After working together on at least nine shows, we have such a shorthand and mutual respect for one another. He has directed work in theatres of all sizes. Aside from the fact that he is the most prepared director I’ve ever encountered, with a deep knowledge of the emotional and mechanical aspects of his shows months before we even start rehearsal, what makes him remarkable is the way he locates the heart of a show and builds the whole world around that. Even with the most entertaining shows, he finds the beating heart, the raison d’etre, and honors that. So without fail, he meets my “must laugh, must cry” test!”
She continues, “Actors love him – he is clearly in control of the room, but he will always listen to ideas and honor them. He’s able to hold the entire play in his head at all times, and understands how one subtle shift in a moment affects the story in another scene. He does all of this while bringing a tremendous joy to the proceedings.”
Price and Martino have assembled a stellar cast of local stars mixed with actors who have experience at stages across the country.
“The score of this show is not for the meek – it is a muscular, legitimate score that needs muscular, legitimate voices. But the trick with Jason’s score is that it also can’t feel ‘sung.’ It needs to feel like these are real people. We also needed to put together a believable family unit. This family is Francesca’s whole world until she is shaken to her core by meeting Robert. This is not a jazz hands musical – we needed actors with palpable depth, with inner radiance and unique character,” said Price.
Francesca is played by Wilma Theatre Hothouse Member Sarah Gliko. She recently performed in Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play at the Wilma and has appeared on many local stages. Robert is played by Gregg Goodbrod, making his Philadelphia debut. Among the Pennsylvania native’s many credits, he appeared in the Original Broadway Cast of Thoroughly Modern Millie and played Joe in the First National Tour of 9 to 5.
Barrymore-winner and Philadelphia musical theater mainstay Michael Philip O’Brien plays Bud, Francesca’s husband. O’Brien is also the Producing Artistic Director of 11th Hour Theatre Company, whose production of City of Angels will be presented on the Suzanne Roberts Theatre stage in the spring.
Francesca and Bud’s children, Carolyn and Michael, are played by Georgiana Summer and Kevin John Murray, respectively. Summer is a Junior at University of the Arts and Murray was seen as Bobby in Cabaret at the Arden Theatre Company last season.
Barbara McCulloh, a Bucks County resident who has appeared on many local stages, plays nosy neighbor Marge. She also appeared on Broadway as Mrs. Darling in Peter Pan and performed as Donna Murphy’s alternate Anna in The King and I. Celebrated Philadelphia actor Greg Wood plays her husband Charlie. Wood was recently in Once at the Arden Theatre Company. Local actress Rachel Camp plays Marian. Camp, who recently appeared as a singer in Two Queens with Opera Philadelphia, also played Dainty June in Gypsy at the Arden Theatre Company.
Price is over the moon about this cast and the team, for the show. “What happens to Francesca as she is awakened in new ways must come from a performer who can light up a room with innate joy and that is what Sarah did when she auditioned,” said Price. “Yes, the role is a hard sing, and she has to have an accent and act well. But Sarah brought a sense of intelligence and buoyancy that made Francesca a woman we will fall in love with and root for – which is key for a play that is, well, about infidelity. The youngest member of our cast is a University of the Arts student – Georgiana Summers. We could have cast the young roles three deep with the University Arts’ students. I have so enjoyed watching the talent blossom across the street. I seriously hope to program more shows with young people in them to take advantage of the student talent pool we have in Philly.”
She added, “We had an embarrassment of riches when casting the show and we had to scoop up the likes of Michael Philip O’Brien, Greg Wood and Rachel Camp as early as possible. I want to say I’m ecstatic that Amanda Morton is our music director. She has a rigor to her work that this piece demands, but also the joy I spoke of earlier.”
The New York Times said about The Bridges of Madison County, “Fortunately, music is the food of love, or so I hear, and Mr. Brown (Parade, The Last Five Years) gives us plenty of rich fare to feast on. There is, to be sure, some of the expected celestial-violins stuff so beloved by cinematic composers, with wordless backup choruses that turn Iowa into the land of “ahs.” But Mr. Brown also brings layered textures of yearning to his songs for Francesca that make us experience the world through her startled, newly awakened senses.”
The Washington Post raved about the score. “‘Bridges is a musical drama that shares a solemn storytelling tone with such other “serious” modern musicals as Adam Guettel’s The Light in the Piazza and Michael John LaChiusa’s Giant. It’s also Brown’s most emotionally gripping score, with fleeting tastes of country and folk rock. As a result of his supple compositions …Bridges leaves you with the feeling that you have something valuable to contemplate.”
Single tickets for The Bridges of Madison County are on sale now for $25-$69 with discounts available for groups, seniors, students, industry, and the military. Two play subscriptions for the 2018-2019 season are available are 40% off, starting at $30. In addition to Bridges, the season also includes Christina Anderson’s How To Catch Creation. March 22-April 14. For additional information, tickets or subscriptions, please visit philatheatreco.org or call 215-985-0420.
PTC’s 2018-2019 season is sponsored by Comcast NBCUniversal, Independence Blue Cross, Center City Film & Video, PNC Arts Alive and American Airlines, the official airline of Philadelphia Theatre Company.
ABOUT PHILADELPHIA THEATRE COMPANY
Philadelphia Theatre Company (PTC) is a leading regional theater company that produces, develops, and presents entertaining and imaginative contemporary theater focused on the American experience. PTC balances its Philadelphia roots with a national point of view that combines a taste for adventure with a dedication to new American plays and musicals.
Founded in 1974, PTC has presented 143 world and Philadelphia premieres. More than 50 percent of PTC’s world premieres have moved on to New York and other major cities, helping to earn Philadelphia a national reputation as a hub for new play development. PTC has received more than 180 nominations and 53 awards from the Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre. In 2007, PTC was instrumental in expanding Philadelphia’s thriving cultural corridor by opening the Suzanne Roberts Theatre on the Avenue of the Arts.