But whole other routines feel slightly misguided or irrelevant. At least one of them, "Another Life," is beautifully rendered nonetheless by Rhyn McLemore Saver (in a flashback as Robert's ex-wife). It's no reflection on the capable talents of Matt Lewis (as Francesca's husband) to question his character's need for <em>four</em> songs — and even Hannah Church and Benjamin Davis (as their children) get to lead a big, hokey crowd number of their own.
There’s a similarly disjointed quality about the script (by Pulitzer Prize-winning “’night, Mother” playwright Marsha Norman), replete with a comic-relief subplot involving Rob Cleveland and Valerie Payton (as the family’s friendly neighbors).
Staged by Aurora associate artistic director Justin Anderson with minimal attention to period detail or bucolic atmosphere, the production registers most effectively when sticking to the point, the relationship between Francesca and Robert.
Acting-wise, Markiton and Smith both deliver strong performances. That's hardly surprising and almost to be expected in Smith's case, after his recent triumphs in "Memphis" and "Big Fish." It's more remarkable in the case of the less familiar Markiton, last seen a few years ago in the supporting cast of Aurora's "Into the Woods."
In much the same way that their romance is frequently interrupted by phone calls from her husband, kids or neighbors, this musical version of the story essentially spoils the mood with too many extraneous distractions. The show is entertaining and solidly executed through it all, but it only truly comes to life and resonates in its more intimate matters of the heart and soul.
“The Bridges of Madison County”
Through April 16. 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays; 10 a.m. Wednesday (March 29 and April 12 only). $20-$65. Aurora Theatre, 128 E. Pike St., Lawrenceville. 678-226-6222, www.auroratheatre.com.
Bottom line: Musically sound, narratively faulty.