When I saw The Bridges of Madison County musical on Broadway last night, never would I have imagined a family connection nor a birthday connection. Yet there were both.
I was prompted to see the musical for two reasons. I loved the film, starring a Vassar College classmate Meryl Streep, and I had just taken a class a few days earlier taught by the much heralded Robert McKee on the love story genre, i.e. how to write a love story screenplay. The class featured the film. The course with about a hundred students was at the French Institute at E. 60th between Park and Madison. So, it was a happy coincidence the musical version was playing on Broadway. How could I not go?
But there were more coincidences to follow -- involving my family. In the midst of the production, a store front was wheeled out. Actually, it was just a door frame representing the store front with the neon sign "Lillian's" for a dress shop. My mother Lillian was known to sew a dress or two. She made all my dresses when I was a child and her own wardrobe as well. She was in my thoughts last night because today, April 16, is the anniversary of mom going to Heaven. It is also Bridges female lead Kelli O'Hara's birthday. Happy Birthday, Kelli O'Hara!
Didn't know about the April 16 connection of the lead actress with my mother when I went to see the musical. Found out later that night when I went home and looked up Kelli's Wikipedia entry. I was so impressed with her performance last night, I wanted to learn more about her. Never expected her birth date and my mother's death date not only to be the same day, but to be the day after I saw the musical.
But the coincidences didn't stop there. The Lillian's dress shop sign on stage was next to another door frame storefront with the neon sign "Bob's," the nickname of my screenwriting instructor, whose class a few days earlier had prompted me to attend this Broadway musical. There had been a lunar eclipse with a rare blood red moon in the wee hours of April 15, the day I saw the show.
On another note, I don't cry at musicals. When Steven Pasquale sang "It All Fades Away," let's just say it was the first time in my life that I needed windshield wipers for my eyeglasses. I had to take them off because I couldn't see through the waterworks generated by his rendition. He gave it his all.
By the way, am I the only one who thinks Steven Pasquale's speaking voice resembles that of Clint Eastwood's? The show seemed to capitalize on that in the way he was introduced to the audience by walking through the audience speaking before he reached the stage so that those of us on the mezzanine level heard his voice before we saw his face. His voice so resembles Eastwood's that I would have bet money Clint was doing a guest shot that night. Eastwood played the National Geographic photographer in the film version opposite Streep.
The show got a standing ovation last night. Also, the audience was ooh-ing and ah-ing out loud all through the performance. It was as if I were at an opera with patrons shouting Bravo! Could be because the two leads have operatic voices.
Mesmerizing performances all around. It's such an intimate house. From the balcony at $49 per ticket, you don't feel as if you are very far from the stage. I bought the ticket day of performance at the box office. The book is written by a Pulitzer Prize winner, Marsha Norman.
It's especially poignant for me that the venue is the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre since I met him the summer of 1992 when his office called to be a part of a program I had put together at NYU Law School on nontraditional casting on Broadway. I chaired the American Bar Association's Law & Media Committee at the time as an attorney and other speakers included Dick Cavett and representatives from Miss Saigon, Will Rogers Follies, Death and the Maiden .
Tonight, I plan to see Bryan Cranston in All the Way on the Great White Way. Cranston is making his Broadway debut playing LBJ. Robert McKee also featured Bryan Cranston, the star of Breaking Bad in his TV Day seminar that I attended on Sunday.
One more thing. Bridges author Robert James Waller grew up in Rockford, Iowa. I own a house in Rockford, Illinois.
Lonna Saunders may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org