"Brigadoon," at The Grand Theatre
by Eric D. Snider
Published on June 18, 2000
Whether or not you'll enjoy the Salt Lake Community College production of "Brigadoon," playing through Sept. 26 at the Grand Theatre on the SLCC campus, depends on whether or not you like "Brigadoon" at all.
"Brigadoon" is one of those "classic" musicals by Lerner and Lowe that is on the order of "My Fair Lady," "The King and I" and "Carousel" -- either you like that style of musical theater or you don't. For many of the younger generation, louder and faster-paced musicals like "Rent" and "Phantom of the Opera" may be preferable to an old romantic tale like "Brigadoon," and this production doesn't really even try to bridge that generation gap (not that is necessarily should -- some things are best left as they were originally intended).
For those unfamiliar with the story, it is as follows: Tommy (Shawn Maxfield) and Jeff (Kevin Gollaher), two Americans, are hiking in the woods of Scotland when they stumble upon the unmapped city of Brigadoon. The inhabitants are dressed as though they were living 200 years ago, and indeed we soon find that to be the case. Through some kind of mystical, heavenly, miraculous means, the city of Brigadoon was enchanted a couple centuries back so that it now disappears for 100 years at a time and then reappears for only one day. To the townsfolk, that 100 years is as but a night -- they go to bed, and when they wake up the next day, the rest of the world has advanced 100 years, whereas they are only a day older.
As you might expect, Tommy falls in love with local pretty gal Fiona (Kristine Jorgensen) and, once he learns the secret of the town, must decide whether to stay and leave his whole life (including a fiancee) behind, or to go back to the regular world and never see Fiona again (well, unless he lives another 100 years and catches her the next time Brigadoon comes around). The amusingly alcoholic Jeff doesn't believe any of it anyway, and, like any good friend, he persuades Tommy NOT to follow his heart, and the two go back to New York.
Don't worry, though. Everything winds up happily, except for Tommy's aforementioned New York fiancee (Giselle LaVoie), who is rather bewildered by Tommy's wistful behavior and glassy-eyed stares.
It's a romantic, illogical story that also contains more than a little oddness -- like the melodramatic Brigadoon youth Harry Beaton (Joshua Madsen) who wants to leave the town and is semi-accidentally killed for trying. His somber, bagpipe-accompanied funeral procession comes immediately after the aggressively perky Meg (Peggy Ruth Deming) sings a delightful song about the drunken revelry and fist-fighting that went on at her parents' wedding.
But it's the music and the love story in "Brigadoon" that have enchanted theater-goers for several decades, and both of those elements are treated nicely in this production. All the principals have beautiful and clear singing voices, and famous numbers like "Heather on the Hill" and "Almost Like being in Love" are as lovely as you remember them.
Some of the dancing seems a bit superfluous, bordering on what appears to be interpretive dance sometimes, and almost calisthetic other times (it's Richard Simmons' "Sweatin' to the Celtics"!). You haven't really experienced life until you've seen a woman do interpretive dance while placing a flower on a dead body while a bagpipe plays.
Like Brigadoon itself, "Brigadoon" is a relic from a bygone era. The structure, the musical style, the simple and romantic plot -- these are things we don't see much of in modern musical theater. Whether that's good or bad is all a matter of perspective, but this production of "Brigadoon" is a relatively solid one.
Copyright © Eric D. Snider.
This work may not be transmitted via the Internet, nor reproduced in any other way, without written consent from Eric D. Snider.