It’s here, ladies and gentleman: Jason Robert Brown’s return to Broadway. And it just so happens that he’s provided us with the most intensely romantic score since Adam Guettel’s The Light in the Piazza.
Interestingly, some of Bridges is quite reminiscent of Parade (One song, in fact, opens with a string arrangement that reminded me instantly of ‘People of Atlanta’). The bulk of Brown’s score is rooted in the story’s setting of Madison County, Iowa, giving it a country flavour while other complementary songs are written in styles such as classical, blues, and folk. There are soaring ballads, powerful anthems, and contemplative soliloquies that are compelling and affecting. The score isn’t afraid to defy all typical convention as well… rather than aggressively pulling us in with a pounding, flashy opening number, Brown opted to start the show with 'To Build a Home', a gentle aria sung by the remarkable Kelli O’Hara as Francesca. It quietly invites and draws us in rather than beating our heads into attention. Similarly, the musical doesn’t end with fanfare and a showstopper… it concludes on quite a poignant note that is just as memorable as a big crowd pleaser would have been.
Sh-K-Boom/Ghostlight Records have done their usual outstanding job immortalizing the score for The Bridges of Madison County, and we have Brown to thank for being one of the few remaining composers who doesn’t simply write a score for commercial value. He proves there’s still room on Broadway for substance over style. And the results are inarguably timeless.