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Onstage / A musical BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY and more

The post-holiday season brings more WNY premieres

Michele Roberts, who stars in Bridges of Madison County, traveled to Iowa, along with other principals, for this shoot.

Photo by Brian Milbrand



Bridges of Madison County

Opens January 10 at Kavinoky Theatre on the D’Youville campus (kavinokytheatre.com, 829-7668)


In 1992, Robert James Waller’s novel about a married but lonely Italian-American war bride and her affair with a traveling National Geographic photographer became a runaway bestseller—which naturally means it was made into a film three years later. It took until 2013 for it to become a Broadway musical that took home Tonys for Best Orchestrations and Best Original Score and until now for someone to present it in Western New York.


“This show is about the choices we make when we love someone. It’s about different kinds of love and how you honor each one,” says Kavinoky executive artistic director Loraine O’Donnell, who directs this show. “The story is beautiful in its simplicity. It’s about loneliness, longing, and love.”


The Tony-winning music is all acoustic—guitar, mandolin, violin—and O’Donnell describes it “lush yet bare, much like Iowa itself. Whenever you add music to something, it tends to add emotional ‘height.’ And when we are talking about intense emotions of love, fear, and loneliness, it gives it more weight.”


To add authenticity to the stage design—primarily the video backdrops designed by Brian Milbrand—O’Donnell and leads Michele Roberts and Steve Copps traveled to Iowa not only to get footage to use in the design but also to allow the actors to experience the Iowa town of Winterset, the surroundings, and the Roseman Bridge. “It will definitely inform the actors’ performances, feeling the beauty and isolation of the beautiful landscape,” O’Donnell says.


The trip was informative not only for the show itself, but also in learning what happens when a small town is forever identified with a hit title. “There is a divide between the people in Winterset. One half embraces the movie and the 1,000 fans that come through the town every week, and the other half want nothing to do with the movie, because they think of it as immoral,” O’Donnell says. “When we were there, we tried to get footage of the house from the movie so we drove out and were greeted by warning signs to ‘Keep out! Unlawful to enter!’ Come to find out—from the women at the Chamber of Commerce, who were amazing and generous—that when the movie first came out, the family that owned it set it up as a tourist gift shop. They charged a small fee to walk through the three rooms used in the film. Apparently, it was overwhelming for the Iowa farmers who knew nothing about the business of tourism and they closed it. There was a small fire there about six years ago and the family decided to not rebuild, so it sits empty and run-down.”


The story, however, lives on beginning January 10 at Kavinoky.



Quick 6 

The Mousetrap

Runs through February 9 at Lancaster Opera House (lancopera.org, 683-1776)


1) Synopsis: A group of strangers is stranded in a boarding house during a snowstorm—and one of them is a murderer! When a policeman shows up to investigate, he rattles some skeletons in preparation for a trademark Agatha Christie twist.


2) The Mousetrap opened on London’s West End in 1952 and has been running ever since. With more than 26,000 performances, it’s
far and away the longest-running play in world theatrical history. Agatha Christie predicted it would
run eight months.


3) The previous record for longest-running play was held by Noel Coward, for Blithe Spirit. Coward gamely wrote Christie with congratulations when his record—a mere 1,997 performances—was eclipsed in 1957. The telegram was discovered by a furniture restorer in 2011.


4) The Mousetrap was originally a thirty-minute radio drama called Three Blind Mice. Agatha Christie wrote it in 1947 to honor an eightieth birthday request—from Queen Mary!


5) The play traditionally ends with an entreaty from a cast member to the audience to keep the “secret of whodunit locked in your hearts.” Bound by no pact, Wikipedia does reveal the killer, despite a campaign by Christie’s grandson to have it removed. Wikipedia compromised by making the spoiler easy to spot and avoid, but it’s still there.


6) What they said: “Coincidence is stretched unreasonably to assemble in one place a group of characters each of whom may reasonably be suspected of murder in series… Yet the whole thing whizzes along as though driven by some real dramatic force, as though the characters were not built entirely of clichés and the situations not all familiar.
The Guardian, 1952



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