There’s Still Magic in the Updated Brigadoon
The Legend of Brigadoon lives on in the Shaw Festival’s current production. Brigadoon retains its magic as the village in Scotland that disappears into the misty moors, and only reappears once every hundred years.
The disappearing village is actually a German myth and originally the creators, Lerner and Loewe, set it in Germany. However, with World War II breaking out, the collaborators decided that a German story wasn’t likely to sell on Broadway. They relocated their mythical village to Scotland.
The Scottish story of Brigadoon opened on Broadway in 1947, a sweet love story just when it was needed. It has played the world over and been revived several times. The Shaw Festival has brought it back on stage this year using playwright Brian Hill’s updated version. Hill has removed the dated macho-man language while keeping the warmth of the Scottish dialogue.
Two Americans are tramping through the Scottish wilderness on a bachelor-party hunting trip. Tommy confesses to Jeff that he is having second thoughts about getting married on his return to America. The two become lost in the mist when they suddenly stumble into a village not on their map. They are quick to assume a film is being made because everyone is dressed in 100-year-old styles. They are invited to stay to celebrate the wedding of Charlie and Jean.
Jeff is seduced by the village hussy, Meg, while Tommy is attracted to the beautiful Fiona, sister of the bride, who is busy with wedding preparations. But not so busy that she doesn’t have time for a little flirtation with Tommy.
Brigadoon only appears every 100 years following an ancient war in Scotland when the townspeople wished things would never change. The Shaw Festival has projections of the old war which contrast with Tommy’s nightmares of World War II in the fields of Europe. Tommy may even have post traumatic stress disorder.
The wedding celebration is interrupted by the bride’s former boyfriend, Harry. He is jealous of Charlie and in a fit of anger, threatens to leave Brigadoon, which would make the village disappear forever. The men chase down Harry who stumbles, hits his head on a rock and dies.
Tommy and Jeff go back to the United States, before the town disappears for another 100 years. Tommy breaks his engagement and can’t stop thinking about Fiona. Spoiler alert – he returns to Scotland and because he loves Fiona so much, Brigadoon reappears and goes into the village to stay forever.
Not only does the updated script make this old favourite more appealing, the Shaw production is filled with beautiful singers easily handling the rich score, and lively dancers paying homage to the Highland fling.
Alexis Gordon and George Krissa, as Fiona and Tommy, both possess beautiful voices. Their duet “Almost Like Being in Love” is perfect. Gordon’s rich soprano voice soars in “Waiting for my Dearie”, while Krissa’s rendition of “There but for You go I” is heartwarming.
Mike Nadajewski shows his flawless comedic timing, as the wise-cracking Jeff. Kristi Frank is hilarious as Meg, especially when telling the story of “My Mother’s Weddin’ Day”. Matt Nethersole as the groom Charlie Dalrymple gives a beautiful rendition of “Come to me, Bend to me”. Together he and Madelyn Kriese, as the bride Jean, dance perfectly.
Harry Beaton, the angry ex-boyfriend, is played Travis Seetoo with great skill in Scottish dance. His ultimate death and funeral are shocking, as they interrupt the wedding celebration. In response, Genny Sermonia as Maggie, shows her grief and unrequited love for Harry in a powerful, heartbreaking dance number.
If you love old musicals, then you’ll appreciate this production of Brigadoon. They have kept the old style musical while updating the old script, resulting in a wonderful show.
Brigadoon continues in repertory at The Shaw Festival Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake until October 13. For tickets, visit www.shawfest.com or call 1-800-511-SHAW(7429).
Photo: Right: Alexis Gordon as Fiona and George Krissa as Tommy. Left: Kristi Frank as Meg and Mike Nadajewski as Jeff. Right: Matt Nethersole as Carlie and Madelyn Kriese as Jean. Photos by David Cooper and Emily Cooper.
Book & Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner
Music by Frederick Loewe
Revised book by Brian Hill
Directed by Glynis Leyshon
Choreography by Linda Garneau
Musical direction by Paul Sportelli
Performed by Alexis Gordon, George Krissa, Kristi Frank, Mike Nadajewski, Matt Nethersole, Michael Therriault et al.
Shaw Festival Production
Festival Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake
May 5 to October 13, 2019
Reviewed by Mary Alderson