"Brigadoon," at SCERA Shell Outdoor Theatre
by Eric D. Snider
Published on June 18, 2000
SCERA's Jerry Elison-directed production of "Brigadoon" is a faithful re-creation of any other production of "Brigadoon" you've ever seen, except for a few lines that have been updated for the year 2000.
What has not been touched is the show's romantic feel -- and that description is both positive and negative.
"Brigadoon" is based on the idea that romance (i.e., love) can conquer all -- "If you love someone enough, anything is possible, even miracles," says one of the characters. That includes, apparently, miracles that contradict other miracles and that fly in the face of all reason.
Which is the other definition of "romantic": imaginative but impractical; pleasant but unrealistic. Bored businessman Tommy (Tony Cobb) and cynical alcoholic Jeff (Shawn Lynn) stumble upon the Scottish village of Brigadoon, which they come to find has had a miraculous spell placed upon it: It disappears for a century at a time, reappearing for only one day every 100 years. Tommy and Jeff happened to have found it on that one day, and while Jeff is warding off the advances of horny milkmaid Meg (Amanda Scheffer), Tommy is falling for cute blonde Fiona (Megan Mack Christensen).
The rule is that an outsider can stay in Brigadoon if he loves one of its inhabitants. Tommy loves Fiona -- but does he have enough faith in this incredible miracle to leave behind his life back in New York? To do so is romantic in both senses of the word: motivated by love, and also incredibly impractical.
By the end, the show breaks its own carefully explained rules of who can and can't come and go in Brigadoon. The coy and mincing teen-age sulker Harry Beaton (Oliver Gaag) tried to leave and got killed for it, but Tommy seems able to return because he loves Fiona a lot. Again, romance.
OK, whatever. It's a romantic show with some beautiful songs (most notably the unfortunately titled "Come to Me, Bend to Me"). This production is marked by excellent singing voices and a decidedly unhurried pace, most evident in Tommy, played with great moping and inexpression by Tony Cobb.
There is more to good singing, though, than just hitting the notes. Without passion or emotion -- or at least some romantic chemistry between the characters -- the songs just get in the way of the story. That is often what happens here.
Shawn Lynn livens things up as the wise-cracking Jeff, and Amanda Scheffer is certainly a hoot as Meg, singing about the drunken brawl that erupted at her parents' wedding -- a strange moment that is second only to her downright smutty "Love of My Life" song, in which she sings of her legendary promiscuity. ("We skirmished for hours at night in the glen," she sings of her affair with a soldier. "And I found the sword was much mightier than the pen." Wow! At the SCERA!)
The rest of the cast ambles along with enthusiasm and some considerable talent, tucked away in the supporting roles.
Brigadoon is a strange place, and "Brigadoon" is a strange show. Fiona says, "There's a difference between romancing a girl and just being sentimental because you're tired." I think that at one point, the 54-year-old "Brigadoon" was quite capable of romancing its audience. Now, though, it's just sentimental and tired.
Copyright © Eric D. Snider.
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