Bridges of Madison County at the Ahmanson

Gordon and I saw The Bridges of Madison County at the Ahmanson last night. We stopped for our soup, wine, and Jeopardy before the show, of course. The conversation was fun but the food was sub-par. Maybe the main chef had the night off, I don’t know. This was the first I’d been disappointed. If it happens again I think I’ll mention it. Then it was on the show.

I bought a copy of the book years ago but never finished; I thought it was a little soapy. I guess the same can be said about the musical but the Harlequin romance element was tempered by Marsh Norman, who wrote the book. In the notes Ms. Norman said she’d always loved Our Town and her script reflected that love by adding more of the townspeople to the mix. Marge, played by Mary Callahan, was just perfect as the concerned (nosy) neighbor. She wasn’t vicious, just ‘involved’–which ended up being a good thing. We smiled at Marge’s house dress and helmet hairdo which reflected the times. Then she broke into a torch song and stole the show. Wonderful performance. The leads, Elizabeth Stanley and Andrew Samonsky, were wonderful, too. The play was a mood piece and they carried the romance without being icky. They both had terrific voices and both looked good so their love scenes and duets worked beautifully. There were no hummable tunes or spectacular dance scenes but I enjoyed the ‘Americana’ feel of it all. It took me back to my childhood with vegetable gardens, state fairs, and small-town prying. One note: the composer, Jason Robert Brown, directed the pit orchestra last night. I don’t know if the regular guy called in sick or what but the composer got an ovation.

Only negative note I have has nothing to do with the play. A grossly overweight couple sat behind us and ate what sounded like potato chips (I guess they missed the announcement about unwrapping candies so the crinkling wouldn’t disturb people; maybe they thought potato chips wouldn’t count). Anyway, through some quiet lovely moments they crinkled and crunched. I tried Gordon’s three-prong approach to dealing with jerks: I asked them to please be quiet. They were for a while. Then the crunching and crinkling started again. So I turned and said forcefully, “Shut up.” They did for a while then started again. I finally turned and snarled, “You fat pig, shut up!” That seemed to get their attention. I tried to forget about them and enjoy the show but decided I was going to war after the curtain. I guess they felt it coming too because when I turned to fight they’d already scurried out. I probably shouldn’t have called her a fat pig (although it was true) but what does it take to get through to people? And she should have been able to survive an hour without stuffing her face–although that’s probably how she got so disgustingly fat in the first place. People make me crazy.

Anyway, if you’re lucky enough not to have a crinckle/cruncher destroying the quiet moments you’ll probably enjoy this show.

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About Barbara Schnell

I've dedicated my life to full-time employment avoidance. I've been an actress, renovated a 1921 California Bungalow, set a cash-winning record on $25,000 Pyramid, and came in last on Jeopardy. I live in Los Angeles with my patient husband and two cats.
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