Full Synopsis

Full Synopsis

Act One

A beautiful Italian woman walks onto the dark stage and sings the story of her journey from wartime Naples to Winterset, Iowa, with her new husband, an American soldier. As Francesca sings, her new home fills with neighbors, children, crops and chores — everything you need to build a home ("To Build a Home").

Then, one morning, Bud and the kids leave for the State Fair in Indianapolis while Francesca stays at home, knowing, as Bud promises, that they will return soon ("Home Before You Know It").

Later that afternoon, a photographer from National Geographic arrives, needing help finding the Roseman Bridge, the last of the covered bridges, which he has been assigned to photograph. Francesca rides with him to the bridge, listening as he explains his comfort in his lifestyle ("Temporarily Lost"). As he studies the bridge, she studies him ("What Do You Call a Man Like That?")

Back at her house, Francesca offers Robert some iced tea, and he stays for supper. As they eat, Robert thinks about his relationship with his ex-wife, Marian, who failed to connect with the handsome loner ("Another Life"). As Robert leaves Francesca's house, they both find themselves wondering what will happen ("Wondering").

The next morning, Francesca goes into town to shop and ends up at the bridge, where Robert is happy to see her ("Look at Me"). He gives her a copy of the National Geographic in which his photographs of the restoration of Naples appear, bringing her to tears ("The World inside a Frame"). She invites him to dinner again.

Meanwhile, at the 4H Finals, Bud finds himself at a bar and reflects that he needs to pay more attention to his wife ("Something Like a Dream").

That night, Robert asks Francesca to dance while the envious neighbor, Marge, looks on ("Get Closer"). Robert and Francesca embrace, and she leads him up the stairs, neither of them able to resist what they feel ("Falling into You").

Act Two

At the Indiana State Fair, a bluegrass band performs, and Bud, Michael and Carolyn celebrate ("State Road 21"). Francesca and Robert wake up in bed together ("Who We Are and Who We Want to Be"). As they drive to Des Moines, Francesca tells Robert about her life in Italy and the devastation of the war ("Almost Real"). Later that night, Robert asks her to come away with him. She realizes her world is now divided ("Before and After You"). They dream of the future they could have together ("One Second and a Million Miles").

The next morning, Francesca panics at the knowledge that the family will arrive in a matter of hours. Robert says he must leave town at six o'clock, and she promises to meet him by then. He promises that all she ever has to do is call him, and he will come get her. She sinks to the floor in tears as he leaves, just managing to get to the table before the family bursts in the door.

Carolyn has won a blue ribbon for her steer, and Michael declared he doesn't want to be a farmer. Francesca begins to tell Bud that she is leaving with Robert, but the moment is interrupted as a fight breaks out between Michael and Bud. Hoping to make peace, Francesca suggests that they go into town for ice cream.

In town, Carolyn sees a stranger across the street and asks, "Mom? Who is that man?" It is Robert, and Francesca runs into his arms, telling him she wants to go with him. But she sees her family and knows she can't leave them. When she returns to the family, Carolyn asks again, "Mom? Who is that man?" and we realize that the exhilarating moment with Robert was only in Francesca's mind. This time, she answers the question simply, explaining that Robert is a photographer who asked her directions one day.

Years pass as the neighbors dress for Carolyn's wedding. We are carried through the next ten years as Michael graduates from medical school and Bud dies ("When I'm Gone").

A year later, as Francesca is thinking about him, Robert appears, older now, but we feel their love as strong as ever as he walks through her kitchen to his office. He calls the National Geographic, and we learn that he is gravely ill. He packs his cameras in a box, then encloses a letter to Francesca ("It All Fades Away"). When she receives the box, she goes back to Roseman Bridge to read the news of his death and hear his final eternal declaration of love ("Always Better"). She walks up on the bridge, and he comes up behind her, his youth restored. He wraps his arms around her; she leans back into him; he kisses her neck, and with this radiant moment of memory, as vivid as life itself, we have the end.