03/02/2014 04:28 pm ET Updated May 02, 2014

The Bridges of Madison County: Sex in Iowa

This is a great American myth: A mysterious stranger comes to town, briefly, and changes everything. Reference: Mark Twain. As the Italian-born homemaker Francesca (Kelli O'Hara) falls in love with Robert (Steven Pasquale), the young hunk who breezes through her Iowa town for a photo shoot, she thinks The Patron Saint of Housewives shined his beneficence on her. As operatic as these emotions come, the new musical, The Bridges of Madison County at the Gerald Shoenfeld Theater on Broadway, under the direction of Bartlett Sher, is sexy fodder for women of a certain age.

At center, the stellar performances of Kelli O'Hara and Steven Pasquale rise above the material: they look and sing great together, and if you want to believe the premise of Robert James Waller's best-selling 1992 novella, that this kind of intense passion over a three day period can sustain people through entire lifetimes, this play rises to its sensuous moment. It also features a standout supporting cast with Hunter Foster as Francesca's decent if boring husband Bud, and the nosy neighbors, Cass Morgan and Michael X. Martin.

Who wouldn't be swept up in such a story? Reference: the popular 1995 film starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood. But internationally too, the work has taken on the aura of the flat plains: In Bertrand Tavernier's hilariously loopy new movie, The French Minister, the closing night film of the upcoming Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center, The Bridges of Madison County (the movie) is the butt of a joke. About Iowa.

A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.