The Bridges of Madison County
Based on the best-selling novel, a forbidden love affair between a photographer and a housewife changes them forever.
Show Essentials
+ Ensemble

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.



Cast Size: Medium (11 to 20 performers)
Cast Type: Older Roles
Dance Requirements: None

Character Breakdown

A beautiful Italian woman, generous, luminous, and funny, now married to a farmer and living in Iowa.
Gender: female
Age: 35 to 45
Richard "bud" Johnson
Francesca's husband. An Iowa farmer, a good guy, diligent and dependable, but always exhausted and irritated that things haven't gotten easier.
Gender: male
Age: 40 to 50
Robert Kincaid
A ruggedly handsome, worldly, visionary photographer.
Gender: male
Age: 40 to 50
Robert's former wife, a musician.
Gender: female
Age: 35 to 45
Francesca's sister still living in Italy.
Gender: female
Age: 35 to 45
Francesca and Bud's son
Gender: male
Age: 16 to 16
Francesca and Bud's daughter
Gender: female
Age: 14 to 14
Francesca's neighbor, sassy and nosy
Gender: female
Age: 45 to 60
Vocal range top: C5
Vocal range bottom: G3
Marge's husband.
Gender: male
Age: 60 to 70
Full Song List
The Bridges of Madison County: To Build a Home
The Bridges of Madison County: Home Before You Know It
The Bridges of Madison County: Temporarily Lost
The Bridges of Madison County: What Do You Call a Man Like That?
The Bridges of Madison County: You're Never Alone
The Bridges of Madison County: Another Life
The Bridges of Madison County: Wondering
The Bridges of Madison County: Look At Me
The Bridges of Madison County: The World Inside a Frame
The Bridges of Madison County: Something From a Dream
The Bridges of Madison County: Get Closer
The Bridges of Madison County: Falling Into You
The Bridges of Madison County: State Road 21
The Bridges of Madison County: Who We Are and Who We Want To Be
The Bridges of Madison County: Almost Real
The Bridges of Madison County: Before and After You
The Bridges of Madison County: One Second and a Million Miles
The Bridges of Madison County: When I'm Gone
The Bridges of Madison County: It All Fades Away
The Bridges of Madison County: Always Better

Show History


The Bridges of Madison County is a musical with a book by Pulitzer Prize-winner, Marsha Norman ('night, Mother, The Secret Garden), and a score by Tony Award-winner, Jason Robert Brown (Parade, The Last Five Years, 13). It is based on the 1992 novel of the same name, famously made into a 1995 film adaptation that starred Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep. All versions tell the same story of a lonely Italian woman who resides in Iowa, and the mysterious photographer who walks into her life and sweeps her off her feet.


The musical, The Bridges of Madison County, made its world premiere at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, running from August 1, to August 18, 2013. It then moved to open on Broadway at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on Broadway on February 20, 2014. The production closed on May 18, 2014, after 137 performances. A national tour launched in 2015, with some minor changes to the script and score.

Critical Reaction

"Music is the food of love, or so I hear, and Mr. Brown gives us plenty of rich fare to feast on. ...[He] brings layered textures of yearning to his songs for Francesca that make us experience the world through her startled, newly awakened senses."
– The New York Times

"[Contains] moments of musical-theater nirvana. ...Songs like 'What Do You Call a Man?' and 'Almost Real' have a heartbreaking beauty. ...[The] songs brilliantly mix a sense of intimacy with near-operatic grandeur."
– The New York Post

"Jason Robert Brown has written a lush and deeply romantic score, filled with rich and melodic duets that show off its leads' terrific voices."
– Entertainment Weekly

"The characters express the overwhelming nature of their feelings for each other in beautiful solo songs as well as soaring duets. ...Brown's score samples disparate styles, from heartland country flavors similar to last season's short-lived Hands on a Hardbody to more sophisticated melodies in the Stephen Sondheim vein."
– The Hollywood Reporter

"[A] touching doomed romance that features a superb, thrilling score by Jason Robert Brown."
– The Huffington Post

"A ravishingly beautiful musical play."
– Newsday

"The staging and writing add welcome layers of complexity and context, and Brown's score combines consistently intelligent lyrics with diverse, inventive melodies."
– TimeOut New York

"Brown's score... provides a few affecting showcases for his vocally supple leading couple. The closing number, 'Always Better,' a wistfully melodic reflection on different kinds of love and sacrifice, is best."
– USA Today

Outer Critics Circle Award

2014 - Outstanding Actress in a Musical, Nominee (Kelli O'Hara)
2014 - Outstanding New Score, Winner (Jason Robert Brown)

Drama Desk Award

2014 - Outstanding Musical, Nominee (The Bridges of Madison County)
2014 - Outstanding Music, Winner (Jason Robert Brown)
2014 - Outstanding Lyrics, Nominee (Jason Robert Brown)
2014 - Outstanding Orchestrations, Winner (Jason Robert Brown)
2014 - Outstanding Director Of A Musical, Nominee (Bartlett Sher)
2014 - Outstanding Book of a Musical, Nominee (Marsha Norman)
2014 - Outstanding Actor in a Musical, Nominee (Steven Pasquale)
2014 - Outstanding Actress in a Muscial, Nominee (Kelli O'Hara)
2014 - Outstanding Sound Design of a Musical, Nominee (Jon Weston)

Drama League Award

2014 - Outstanding Production of a Musical, Nominee (The Bridges of Madison County)
2014 - Distinguished Performance, Nominee (Kelli O'Hara)
2014 - Distinguished Performance, Nominee (Steven Pasquale)

Tony® Award

2014 - Best Original Score, Winner (Jason Robert Brown)
2014 - Best Orchestrations, Winner (Jason Robert Brown)
2014 - Best Performance By A Leading Actress In A Musical, Nominee (Kelli O'Hara)
2014 - Best Lighting Design of a Musical, Nominee (Donald Holder)



Based on the novel by Robert James Waller.


You must give the authors/creators billing credits, as specified in the Production Contract, in a conspicuous manner on the first page of credits in all programs and on houseboards, displays and in all other advertising announcements of any kind.
Percentages listed indicate required type size in relation to title size.
You agree to bill the Play, the Authors and the underlying rights owners whenever and wherever the title of the Play appears, including without limitation, in all programs (on the title pages), houseboards, and displays and in all advertising and all paid publicity, in the following manner:
Book by
Music and Lyrics by
Based on the novel by ROBERT JAMES WALLER
No one but producers, prior presenters of the Play and stars of the Play may receive billing above the title, and no one except stars receiving billing above the title may receive larger or more prominent billing than that afforded to Authors.
The following credit shall appear on the title page of all programs:
Orchestrations by Jason Robert Brown
The following credits shall appear in a conspicuous manner on  (a) on the title page of all programs and (b) in all advertising and publicity wherever and whenever the full production credits are given, in a type size not less than the lesser of 20% of the type size used for the non-logo title of the Play or that accorded to the designers (if the designers receive billing), substantially as follows:
Originally Produced on Broadway by Jeffrey Richards, Stacey Mindich, Jerry Frankel
Gutterman Chernoff, Hunter Arnold, Ken Davenport, Carl Daikeler, Michael DeSantis,
Aaron Priest, Libby Adler Mages/Mari Glick Stuart, Scott M. Delman, Independent Presenters Network,
Red Mountain Theatre Company, Caiola Productions, Remmel T. Dickinson, Ken Greiner,
David Lancaster, Bellanca Smigel Rutter, Mark S. Golub & David S. Golub, Will Trice
with Warner Bros.Theatre Ventures
and The Shubert Organization
in association with The Williamstown Theatre Festival
The following credit shall appear on the title page of all programs for the Play in a type and size no smaller than the credit afforded the designers of such production on such page:
The World Premiere Production of The Bridges of Madison County
was produced by the Williamstown Theatre Festival
Jenny Gersten, Artistic Director; August, 2013
The Williamstown Theatre Festival shall also receive credit wherever and whenever the producer of such production is afforded such a credit in a size and boldness equal to 35% of that of any such producer.  
The following credit shall appear at the bottom of the title page for all programs of the Play and also on houseboards, posters and full page ads where the full production credits are included:
“With the cooperation of Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures, Inc.”
Shortened billing:
In advertisements of 1/4 page size or less, and online and mobile ads where in each case only the title of the play, performance dates and venue are provided and in outdoor advertising, transit and taxi ads and marquees where no other person is billed, the following “shortened billing” is permissible:
Bios: The licensee shall include the Authors’ approved biographies in all programs that include biographies of any other creative team members.  For licensees of first or second class productions of the Play in the United States and Canada, licensees must include a paragraph about the Williamstown Theatre Festival.  The authors biographies can be found on the MTI website at
The videotaping or other video or audio recording of this production is strictly prohibited

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