Discover The Bridges of Madison County: The Power of Music

Posted on February 5th, 2016

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“The lyric theatre felt like the perfect vehicle to tell the story of Robert and Francesca.”

—Jason Robert Brown, Composer, The Bridges of Madison County


Composer’s Notes

I had been writing comedies for several years, and the longer lines of romance and yearning and fantasy had been building up, swirling around my head unchanneled, imprecise. When Marsha and I did The Trumpet of the Swan, big music started to leak out, expansive music, something beautiful. I was afraid of turning off the tap, so I told Marsha we should look for a project that would be serious and intense and overflowing with unrestrained passion, which is not the kind of thing I say very often. I said I was ready to write La Traviata. We set out to find a story.

The story found us. Robert James Waller’s agent approached Marsha to adapt The Bridges of Madison County, and she immediately knew this would be our project. I had never read the novel but I regarded it warily — I was a 22-year-old single guy living in Manhattan when it first came out, and I was not, to put it mildly, the target audience — but Marsha saw in it a deeper resonance and a fiercer moral energy than I would have perceived, and she sold me on the struggles of these two broken characters who each see a piece of themselves trapped inside the other. I suggested we conceive it as an octet, a piece for eight lonely voices on a large stage.

The piano reflects my energy back at me, neurotic and complicated — I know the instrument so well by now that I sometimes have to wrestle with it to make it surprise me, and I knew that the skittery and dense music that the piano and I traditionally made together wasn’t the right sound for this piece. I’d played guitar the way most guys who hang around rock bands play it — I knew a couple of chords and I could keep time relatively well
— but I felt the guitar was my way in to the world of the Johnson family in Winterset, IA in 1965, so I bought a black Takamine and hoped for the best.

From the beginning, the music flooded out of me, music that I didn’t entirely recognize as my own but that was clearly speaking some revelation I had yet to confront in myself. I felt myself sometimes butting up against the corny, the cheesy, the sentimental, but I decided in those moments to push harder through it, not to be cynical about love or family but to sing about them with ecstatic truth.

We can love in many different ways, and we can love different things simultaneously. It is hard — it is insane — to place one love above another. With every show I’ve written, I begin thinking it’s just a job,
the story doesn’t have anything to do with me, and I end by realizing I have exposed some deep scary part of myself. I am unspeakably grateful to my beautiful family for holding our lives together while this score got pushed out into the world — I spent four years learning about Robert and Francesca and figuring out how and why they made the choices they did, and this show celebrates, in many ways, the staggeringly high price and the even greater value of the commitments and the choices we make to build a home.

Jason Robert Brown
March 28, 2014 New York, NY




Maybe we are born to respond to music. Sound is one of the first senses we develop in the womb. Before we see, taste or touch — we hear. The rhythm of our mother’s heartsbeat
is our first connection to another person and the outside world. Music is an intimate act. The sound of a melody enters the ear and moves the ear drum. The texture and tone of the music is literally touching you.

Music can capture the depth, sweep and complexity of pure feelings.
It goes beyond language. It needs no translation. Music speaks the unspeakable, voicing the richness
of the heart when words fall flat. Like love — how do you describe the feeling of love? The word itself fails to convey the intricacies, the fear, elation, longing, befuddlement, tenderness, sadness, joy.

Eight words to get somewhat of an approximation of what it is to be in love.

Maybe being in love is like a musical? That moment when language is not enough. When the emotion has to be expressed and it is too grand for the rigidity of syntax and grammar. That’s when the music begins to swell and the chorus hums. The hero or heroine opens their mouth and emotions float on melodies that we understand instantly, viscerally. Before our brains decipher the words, we know that Francesca is in love with Robert and we know from the tug the minor chords give our hearts that this love will be bittersweet. A song, a mere string of notes captures it all. Straight from our ears to our hearts and we understand what love is.



THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY is presented by Dallas Summer Musicals February 2-14, 2016 at Music Hall Fair Park. Tickets are ON SALE NOW!

-Click here for tickets will be this link:

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