From Kurt Boehm’s direction and nuanced yet sure performances of the leads to Michael Innocenti’s evocative gorgeous lighting and Patrick Lord’s projections, Keegan Theatre’s The Bridges of Madison County injects spine and humor into a sentimental journey and brings the heartland to life.

Having just returned from a family reunion in the Midwest – well, not Iowa but Indiana – where I spent many a childhood summer in the very period novelist Robert James Waller has set his story, I know this landscape well. … So, when Chad Wheeler walks on as the Farmer-Husband-Father and sings in a thick country accent, “We’ll be home before you know it,” I completely fall for him and settle back grinning, recognizing that this is the real deal. … Wheeler’s grounded performance anchors the entire show in its contextual reality.

Susan Derry has created a magical and complex character in her portrayal of Francesca or as she’s lived for 18 years  “Franny.”  … But Derry shows us from the start she remains an outsider. Her accent is thick; her thoughts stray elsewhere. … What delighted me even more was to discover this singing-actress could deliver a most nuanced and full physical characterization.  Students of musical-theatre of any brand would do well to study Derry’s work in detail.

Derry and indeed all the actors mine the humor in Marsha Norman’s script, and some of this credit surely goes to director Kurt Boehm.

Dan Felton as the stranger is a bit of marvelous casting.  He plays Robert, the National Geographic photographer on assignment to take pictures of the region’s covered bridges, less as a hunk and more as a serious professional and curious world traveler. In this version, Francesca falls in love with his original mind … Both of them make the four days these two have together a most believable arc.