Brigadoon is uneven, but enthusiastic community theater.
Thursday, July 3, 2003
The names Alan J. Lerner and Frederick Loewe are synonymous with the best of mid-20th-century American musical theater. In 1947 they opened their first collaboration, Brigadoon. Coming close on the heels of the end of World War II, it is not surprising that the show, with its themes of hope and love, was such a tremendous hit.
Brigadoon tells the story of two American tourists, Tommy Albright and Jeff Douglas, who are traveling through Scotland. Lost in the countryside, they come upon a lovely little village where Tommy falls in love with a beautiful local woman, Fiona. The Americans come to learn that there is something special about this village. Centuries before, in order to keep it safe from marauders, it was enchanted through the prayers of the local minister so that each night when the residents go to sleep, the town recedes into the mists and does not emerge for 100 years.
Before enchanting the town, the minister left the people with one warning: Should any citizen ever become disgruntled and want to leave the town, the enchantment would be broken. Even a utopian society can be destroyed by one troubled individual.
To represent the troubles of the outside world, we have the character of Tommy''s friend, Jeff. Here is a fascinating sidekick for a romantic hero, a man cynical and embittered. He does his best to discourage Tommy from embracing the possibilities of love.
Of course, hope triumphs over cynicism. True love is the most powerful force in the universe, more powerful than fear, more powerful than despair. What an important message for Lerner and Loewe to communicate to a world healing from the ravages of Hitler. What an important message for the world to hear today.
The Forest Theater Guild''s Brigadoon is a creditable community theater production. Director Hamish Tyler and Musical Director Jeff Green do exactly what good community theater directors should do: They blend in their cast and in their orchestra, old hands at music or theater with up-and-coming amateurs and with area high school students. What a wonderful sense of community this builds.
Though none of the voices, the acting or the dancing is particularly strong, the cast''s commitment to the show carries them a good way. They clearly love it and the audience is brought along to enjoy it with them. And the play is indeed enchanting in the beautiful setting of the Forest Theater.
The standouts in the cast are Mitchell Davis as Jeff Douglas and Phyllis Davis as Meg Brockie. Mitchell Davis brings an exquisite comic timing and a true sense of ease onstage to the character of Jeff. In lesser hands, this cynic could become grating, yet Davis ensures that we see just enough charm to make him likeable. Phyllis Davis'' sheer delight in the character of the fun-loving Meg, her energy and elan as she tackles her songs, make her eminently watchable.
Tyler and his cast need to work together to eliminate those aspects of the production that can hamper an audience''s enjoyment. The pace is, at times, excruciatingly slow. Verbal anachronisms slip into the 18th-century Scottish language as actors use audible pauses like "I mean" or "okay." And the minister who brought about the miracle would roll in his Protestant grave to see one of the townsmen cross himself as he mentions his dear departed wife.
Still, Brigadoon is good fun and the beautiful forest setting of the theater is a restorative in a busy world.
Brigadoon continues at the Outdoor Forest Theater through July 26.