Review: SVST opens 'The Bridges of Madison County'

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Jun. 23—Spokane Valley Summer Theatre's 2022 season opened June 17 with the regional premiere of "The Bridges of Madison County." Back on the University High School stage, the show met nothing but applause all evening.

Based on the eponymous Robert James Waller novel, Tony Award-winner Jason Robert Brown and Pulitzer Prize-winner Marsha Norman's musical adaptation of "The Bridges of Madison County" follows Robert, a traveling photographer (Clayton Winters), Francesca, an Italian war bride (Andrea Olsen) who is content but homesick for the world she left behind in Europe, and a heart-rending series of what-ifs.

Francesca's husband, Bud (Charles Fletcher), and their children, Michael (Gunnar Rorholm) and Carolyn (Noelle Fries), leave home for several days to compete in a national livestock-showing competition. Francesca is determined to read and do as little as possible with her time alone. But her plans quickly unravel when a photographer for National Geographic drives through town looking for the town's historic covered bridges.

Both suddenly out of their element, but with a surprising number of interests in common, the two form an instant connection. And over the next few days, as Francesca learns what it feels like to fall in love, she faces the prospect of leaving her family and friends behind to pursue a new life with Robert.

There were a lot of memorable moments from the show and especially bright spots for particular characters.

Winters, SVST's first Actor Equity Association guest artist, is a great addition to the cast. Darnelle Preston and Daniel Griffith as Marge and Charlie were hilarious standouts. I could not get enough of Marge and that rotary phone.

But Olsen's performance was stunning from start to finish. I could've listened to her sing alone for hours. Convincingly maintaining an accent for a whole show might have held others back, but hers only seemed to enhance the performance. Her characterization was brilliant, and I can't wait to see her on stage again.

Also, I have to give a big shout out to the cast and whoever was in charge of planning all of those scene changes — just, wow. They were basically seamless. It was magical.

"The Bridges of Madison County" runs through Sunday. For information, visit svsummertheatre.com or call the Box Office at (509) 368-7897.