Through October 13
BRIGADOON Festival Theatre/Shaw Festival
By Augustine Warner
Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe broke through on Broadway with “Brigadoon,” beginning a remarkable string of hits like “My Fair Lady.”
What’s different about “Brigadoon” is that it escapes the current political correctness of the musical theatre and the (often) deserved censorship of the days when Broadway musicals were a key part of American culture.
The basic material is so good that the Shaw Festival built upon it for a great show, absolutely worth the visit to Niagara-on-the-Lake.
The story is well known, the small Scottish village which only appears every century and the two World Wat II veterans on a pre-marriage hunting trip in the Highlands who stumble into Brigadoon.
Tommy Albright (George Krissa) and Jeff Douglas (Mike Nadajewski) arrive on the day Jean MacLaren (Madelyn Kriese) and Charlie Dalrymple (Matt Nethersole) are to be married.
That’s something Tommy and Jeff are familiar with since Tommy is slated to head back to Manhattan and marry Jane Ashton (Jacqueline Thair), with Jeff as best man.
It’s not a marriage made in heaven, rather a dynastic marriage that Tommy’s not happy about but feels locked into because of a promise he made before going off to war.
That’s where the second romance of the show kicks in, Tommy and Jean’s sister Fiona (Alexis Gordon), whose voice suggests she’s on loan-out from the Canadian Opera Company.
There’s also the lusting Meg Brockie (Krtisti Frank)
In the end, Tommy dumps the marriage to Jane and heads off to sleeping Brigadoon, where the village wakes up enough to welcome him and return to waiting for the next century.
The original production had the Lerner and Loewe music and Agnes DeMille choreography, mixing traditional Highland dancing and music with the needs of the Broadway stage.
Shaw has put together director Glynis Leyshon with her long experience in musicals and operas; choreographer Linda Garneau; Pam Johnson’s Highland village and forest set; Kevin Lamotte’s surrealistic lighting; and, Corwin Ferguson’s projections.
Music director Paul Sportelli has an orchestra which seems larger than some past musicals, although the bagpipes are often recorded.
All of that is fine but the real test is what’s on stage and the Shaw’s record in recent years isn’t great.
Remember “Sweet Charity?”
This is wonderful.
Leyshon and the casters at Shaw tapped the large and diverse dancing crew in Canada, not just for Krissa, Nadajewski, Kriese, Nethersole and Gordon but for the whole ensemble.
They have been drilled very thoroughly, for the Highland dances essential to the setting and for the sword dancing.
It isn’t just the music but the words which go with that music.
More than anything, “Brigadoon” is known for Tommy and Fiona with “The Heather on the Hill” and Charlie and the ensemble with “I’ll Go Home With Bonnie Jean.”
There are other songs, Fiona’s “From This Day On”; Meg’s “The Love of my Life”; and, Fiona and the ensemble with “Waiting for my Dearie.”
Okay, the premise is silly, although there are probably a lot of people who would like to sack out for 100 years and see if we all survive.
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