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Pittsburgh premiere of ‘The Bridges of Madison County’ examines choices made for love | TribLIVE.com
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Pittsburgh premiere of ‘The Bridges of Madison County’ examines choices made for love

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David Toole and Caroline Nicolian star in Carnivale Theatrics' Pittsburgh premiere of 'The Bridges of Madison County' June 29 - July 7 at the New Hazlett Theater in North Side, Pittsburgh.

Carnivale Theatrics will raise the curtain on the Pittsburgh premiere of a love story with a message even stronger than the feelings between two people in love.

Pittsburgh actor Caroline Nicolian takes on the role of Francesca in “The Bridges of Madison County,” a musical drama based on the 1992 best-selling novel by Robert James Waller. A 1995 movie starred Meryl Streep in the role and a Broadway musical in 2014 featured Kelli O’Hara as Francesca.

The Pittsburgh-based theater company will stage “The Bridges of Madison County” June 29-July 7 at New Hazlett Theater on the city’s North Side.

“I think what is so attractive about this show is the depth of the material,” says Nicolian, a Point Park University graduate (BFA, musical theater) whose credits include Pittsburgh CLO, Pittsburgh Public Theater and Saint Vincent Summer Theatre.

Unexpected encounter

Francesca, a war bride from Naples, Italy, is living a quiet life with her husband and family in Madison County, Iowa, when an unexpected encounter with a photographer named Robert (played by David Toole) changes both of their lives.

“It is a romance, but there is so much more to it than that,” she says. “With so many themes, there is a ton to take away from this show and everyone will be able to relate.”

Toole says the musical will leave audience members questioning what love is, the role people play in their own destiny, the issues of right and wrong, fate versus decision and the power of human connection.

“You will be thoroughly wrapped up in this production,” he says. “The music is dynamic and moving and is in my opinion some of the best writing in contemporary theater.”

Toole has performed with Pittsburgh Musical Theater, Pittsburgh CLO, Theatre Raleigh and Front Porch Theatricals. He also is one of five rotating National Anthem singers for the Pittsburgh Penguins and sings, plays guitar and composes for the band Identity X. A graduate of Robert Morris University, he is a private voice instructor in the North Hills, where he lives.

Spirit of Americana

Director Connor Bahr agrees that “Bridges” composer Jason Robert Brown has captured a spirit of Americana that is unmatched by other composers.

“It is an evening of true connection and pure humanity,” he says. “The audience will leave the theater re-evaluating the choices that they have made for love and perhaps wondering if certain decisions would have led them down a different path.”

It also will make people wonder about the bridges that they didn’t cross in their lives and what they could have meant for them, he adds, “and also, hopefully knowing that ‘love is always better.’”

Bahr, a theater arts graduate of Point Park University and graduate of Mt. Lebanon High School, directed “Krapp’s Last Tape,” “Not I” and “Rosencrantz and Guilderstern are Dead” for Pittsburgh theater company TACT, which he founded, and “Peter Pan” at Mt. Lebanon High School. He has performed in “Arriba! Arriba! The Roberto Clemente Story” with Pittsburgh CLO and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” with Prime Stage.

The cast of “The Bridges of Madison County” also features Daniel Krell as Francesca’s husband, Bud, along with Jason Michael Swauger and Katy Williams as her neighbors.

“Bridges,” featuring the Broadway set and costumes, is the third Pittsburgh premiere for Carnivale Theatrics, which also produced “Next to Normal” in 2012 and “In the Heights” in 2013.

Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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