The Bridges of Madison County at Players by the Sea

The Bridges of Madison County is in production through Feb. 16 at Players by the Sea. The Jacksonville Beach community theater has a history of producing high-quality musicals with exceptional talent on stage and behind the scenes. Players does it again with The Bridges of Madison County.

Players is the first theater in Northeast Florida to present The Bridges of Madison County. The story is based on the 1992 best-selling novel by Robert James Waller. If you have not read the book, you may be familiar with the 1995 film of the same name featuring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep.

The story revolves around Francesca, an Italian war bride, who married American GI Bud to escape war-torn Naples. Set in 1965, Francesca is looking forward to spending a few days alone at their farm while Bud and their two children are away at the Iowa State Fair. Then National Geographic photographer Robert Kincaid arrives, looking for directions to a local covered bridge. In the four days that follow, this chance meeting evolves quickly to a deep connection and love that leaves Francesca and Robert forever changed.

The production is a testament to the talent, leadership and vision at Players by the Sea. The Bridges at Madison County is under the direction of Players by the Sea Executive Director Suzanne Hudson-Smith and Lee Hamby, Managing Director for The 5 & Dime, with musical direction by Zeek Smith. Together, with a talented cast, crew and creative team, they present The Bridges of Madison County with unmistakable flair, heart and style.

The 13-member cast is led by Erin Barnes in the role of Francesca and David Diehl as Robert Kincaid. Both stand out for their spectacular vocal talents and acting abilities. Eric Yarham as Bud, Francesca’s husband, and Kaylee Hendry (Carolyn) and John Flannagan (Michael), Francesca’s children, are believable in their roles. Susan Roche as Marge and Del Austin as Charlie, Francesca’s neighbors, bring loving humor to the stage. Lexi Inks delivers a memorable performance as Marian. The cast is rounded out by Jodie Jernigan, Zoe Bell, Leanne Gullo, Alex Young and Richie Rosado.

The band is off stage and provides a wonderful accompaniment to the magnificent voices in this cast. The band includes conductor Zeek Smith on piano, Jacob Schuman on guitar, Damon Martin on bass, Joseph Henderson on violin, Alexander Downs on cello and percussion by Andre Simpson.

The set is beautifully designed so that cast members move props in and out and scenes flow seamlessly from one to the next. Amy Hancock’s costume design adds authentic style. The sound and lighting design adds to the richness of the production. The creative team includes production manager Jereme Raickett, scenic designer Ian Black, lighting designer Daniel Dungan, sound designer Jermaine Rodriguez, scenic charge artist Katie Dawson, scenic carpentry by Baron Tetzlaff and properties by Claire Cimino. The stage manager is Jennifer O’Brien, assistant stage manager Marielle Erskine and Chelsea Black is the deck head.

Performances continue Feb. 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, 14, 15, and 16. Curtain is at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $28, $25 seniors, students and military. Thursday Nights are Student Nights, where students can receive half price tickets at the door with a valid student I.D.

For tickets, visit http://www.playersbythesea.org or 904.249.0289. Players by the Sea is located at 106 6th St. N. in Jacksonville Beach.