'Bridges of Madison County' Musical: Iowa Setting Obeys Broadway's Expectations

Bridges of Madison County, musical
Bridges of Madison County musicalThe Bridges of Madison County musical brings Iowa to Broadway.
As The Bridges of Madison County musical opens today on Broadway, sales of the book by Robert James Waller are expected to resurge. Rentals of the 1995 movie starring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep also should get a bump.

But better than the book, the movie and the musical combined is a visit to the real Madison County and those beautiful and very real covered bridges.

This particular Madison County is in Iowa, the heart of the heartland, where presidential campaigns begin and Norman Rockwell could still find inspiration.

Some of those bridges were already more than 30 years old when a big boy later called John Wayne was born here in 1907. At the time the book was published in 1992, there were seven covered bridges, dating to the 1870s and 80s. Today, only six remain and they are all protected on the National Register of Historic Places.

The one that draws the most attention from book, movie and now musical fans is the Roseman Bridge. That's the one that [spoiler alert] first brought the characters Robert Kincaid and Francesca Johnson together, where she left a note inviting him to dinner and where her ashes were spread near the end of the movie, leaving some wondering if cremation is even Christian.

Kincaid didn't have a map to the bridges, which is why he got lost and stopped at the Johnson farmhouse in the first place. You don't have to worry about that. The Madison County Chamber of Commerce now offers printed maps with GPS coordinates. Guided tours are also available, especially in October during the Covered Bridge Festival.

But what fun is that! Where's the romance, the fantasy, the innocent and random colliding of two worlds that leads to such great theater?

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