OREM — With a book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner with music by Frederick Loewe, Brigadoon tells the story of Tommy Albright and Jeff Douglas, two American tourists who become lost in the wiles of Scotland and discover the magical village of Brigadoon, which only appears once every one hundred years. I remember watching the 1954 film version of Brigadoon as teenager. I was sure I would love the film because it had Gene Kelly in it. I was sadly disappointed. Ever since that experience I have never desired to watch an other version of Brigadoon. Fast forward to this past weekend when I had the opportunity to give the stage version of Brigadoon a try. The SCERA did what Gene Kelly failed to do: they helped me discover a new favorite musical.
As I approached the Scera Shell Outdoor Theatre bagpipes reverberated through the warm summer evening. Inside the shell theatre, at the top of the hill, stood a bagpiper pied piping in that night’s audience. On stage was a set designed by Shawn Mortensen with a highland hill, a small crested monument, and a stone bridge, with additional set pieces covered in silvery fabric. Behind the set was a background of a stormy misty landscape. Later, the silvery fabric would be removed to reveal the small stony buildings of the village of Brigadoon. Of the several productions I’ve been able to attend at the SCERA Shell, this set design was one of the the better executed designs. The stage is large, and so often it is hard to fill the space in an aesthetically pleasing manner. This was not the case here. Mortensen’s set complimented the space and still left ample room for the cast’s large dance numbers. Another aspect of the set design that I enjoyed was found in the painting style. It reminded me of old musical films, with softly colored landscapes. Today it seems everyone wants realistic looking backgrounds, but I enjoyed being transported through time with this nostalgic scenic art.
The set was not the only nostalgic facet of the night. Tommy Albright, played by Logan Bradford, had a Frank Sinatra feel to him. Bradford was an excellent choice for this role. His voice was strong, clear, and controlled. A moment showcasing Bradford’s control took place as he was singing “The Heather on the Hill.” The heather he had just picked came apart and dropped to the stage floor. Bradford stooped and proceeded to pick up the small pieces as he was singing. I fully expected this to diminish his breath support and adjust his tone, but it didn’t even dim his strong voice. If I had closed my eyes I wouldn’t have known that he was continually bending over to pick up flower pieces. Bradford brought a similar strength to his character, Tommy. Although Tommy is engaged to a girl back in America, he falls in love with the sweet Fiona (played by Aubrey Rose Jackson) in Brigadoon. Tommy becomes confused about which life he wants, but Bradford never made his character appear weak. When Tommy and Fiona sang their first duet, “The Heather on the Hill,” their voices blended well and their sweet, easy chemistry really began to show through. Their relationship felt comfortable and natural.
Fiona felt genuine, and was cheery and sweet. Jackson’s voice captured my attention as she sang the first song of the show, “Waitin’ for my Dearie.” After she met Tommy, I could tell that she was interested in him. As her interest grew to love, she didn’t become bitter that this one day was all she might have with him. She still loved her village and her family. She didn’t curse the outcome of her love as did another character, Harry Beaton (played by Michael Hess). I loved the contrast of Fiona’s outlook on life with Harry’s. Poor Harry’s dreams were shattered by the marriage of the girl he loved to another man, Charlie Dalrymple (played by Kyle Hansen). Charlie was the sort of person people naturally like and follow. This was evident when he and the townspeople gave a fun and spirited rendition of “I’ll Go Home with Bonnie Jean.” Hansen had an impressive range that truly showed itself in “Come to Me, Bend to Me.”
The choreography by Christopher Gallacher throughout the entire show—especially “I’ll Go Home with Bonnie Jean” and “Come to Me, Bend to Me”—was fun and well executed; it felt indigenous to the setting of the show. I loved the variety of dances which included Celtic sword dancing, ballet, maiden rounds, and folk dances. Yet, my favorite character of the night was Meg Brockie, played by Maggie Warren. Her humor and energy helped brighten and liven every scene she was in. Although a setting historical, the humor was still understood by a contemporary audience. Meg’s naughty side comes out in “The Love of My Life,” and she puts the group sitting behind me in stitches, which left me smiling widely.
Costuming was beautifully done by designer Kelsey Seaver. I especially enjoyed the wedding scene with every family in different tartans. Jean’s wedding dress was also lovely with its layers of cream ruffles. I was grateful for the bright red accent fabric at the neckline and cuffs of Fiona’s dress so I could keep track of her throughout the large dance numbers.
This production had beautiful vocal performances, fun dances, and lovely costumes and set. What I truly loved about this staging was the sense of nostalgia that I felt. It was a want-to-be time traveler’s delight. It transported me to 1700’s Scotland, to the early 1900’s, and to the golden age of musical theatre. I walked away feeling relaxed and refreshed, which isn’t an experience I frequently have while attending musicals. Many modern musicals are loud, energetic, and trying to prove a point. I enjoy such productions, but I soaked up this relaxing experience which still maintained a good energy level and pace. If given the opportunity I’d go again for an encore performance. SCERA’s Brigadoon is the perfect closer to their summer season.