The Bridges of Madison County, that wildly popular if not exactly critically acclaimed 1992 novel by Robert James Waller, which focuses almost entirely on an adulterous romantic relationship between a traveling National Geographic photographer and an unfulfilled Iowa housewife, wouldn’t seem like a natural fit for a full-scale musical nearly three hours in length.

It works, if not without a few problems with ethics and credibility, because of an intelligent, sensitive book by Marsha Norman (The Secret Garden) and complex, varied musical numbers by Jason Robert Brown (The Last Five Years).

SRO Theatre Company’s affecting production of the musical, which is set in the sixties, keeps its eye on the core relationship between photographer Robert (David Hammond) and artistic Francesca (Taryn Hammond). The two actors, who are married in real life, have a natural, unforced chemistry that makes their bond believable.

In a scenario that requires serious suspension of disbelief, the two meet and fall deeply in love over four days while Francesca’s pleasant husband Bud (Michael Ruerhmund) takes their two teenaged kids (Johnny Robison and Anneke Keesing) to the state fair to show a steer.

Where the musical veers, to its credit, from the novel is in making the members of Francesca’s family, as well as a neighbor couple, as real and human as the central pair.

Likewise, their achingly romantic songs are balanced by numbers given to other characters that call up less intense feelings, and constant telephone calls are used as a device to remind the audience of just how connected Francesca – if not the brooding Robert – is to a wider world than that of her bed, central though that may be to the show.

Director Kristofer Green emphasizes the troubled longing in the relationship, rather than giving it a glossy sheen. Derryck Menard’s fluid lighting gives a dream-like feel to the production, while Dayton Willison’s charmingly simple costumes ground it in its historical period.

As singers, the two Hammonds harmonize particularly well, with Taryn’s soulful voice and David’s strong baritone meshing or standing individually. A seven-piece, string-heavy orchestra provides a lush sound, though there were times at Friday’s opening night when the orchestra made it difficult to make out the singers’ words.

The central Ohio premiere of this romantic musical just might make (temporary) believers out of those skeptical about the possibility of love at first sight.

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