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.
OK, here's the deal with "Brigadoon." While Jeff and Tommy are hanging out in the town for the day -- Jeff drinking (constantly) and avoiding the obnoxious Meg; Tommy gettin' some from Fiona -- they are told very clearly that if they want to stay in Brigadoon, they have to decide before the end of the day. Because at the end of the day, Brigadoon goes back to wherever it goes for 100 years, and that's it, no more chances. So Tommy's all set to stay because, in a "Titanic"-esque turn of events, he's managed to fall in love with Fiona in a matter of a few hours, but then Jeff makes him doubt himself, and so they leave. So that's it, right? The day's over, Brigadoon is gone again, no more chances, right?
Well, you'd think so. But a few months later, Tommy decides he wants to go back to where Brigadoon WAS, knowing full well it won't be there but still wanting to go. So he and the barely-standing Jeff go back to Scotland and sure enough, Brigadoon is nowhere to be seen. But then, all of a sudden, the old Brigadoonian guy who knows the whole story shows up and informs Tommy that if he loves Fiona strongly enough, he can enter Brigadoon now, without having to wait another hundred years. And so he does.
This makes no sense to me whatsoever. OK, never mind all the metaphysical problems inherent in a city that disappears for 100 years at a time then re-appears for only one day, its inhabitants not having aged at all. Never mind the question of where the town goes for all that time, and what happens if someone in the town chooses not to go to sleep one night (since the whole time-slowing process seems to hinge on the fact that it occurs while everyone's asleep). Never mind all that. Even in the play's weird sense of reality and logic, how does Tommy enter the town when it's not even there, when it still has 99 years and eight months to go before it shows up again? Didn't they make it VERY clear that the rule was, you had to stay or go during that one visitation day? Yes they did. So how'd he get to change his mind four months (or, in Brigadoon time, five minutes) later? If coming and going in Brigadoon is such a casual thing, why did everyone hunt down poor Harry Beaton and kill him when he tried to leave?
I don't like this play. But I recognize that many others do, and for what it is, SLCC's production of it was pretty good. I just want to go on record as protesting it. Modern musicals like "Chess" and "Miss Saigon" may not be traditional, but at least they make sense (except for the hurried and unnecessarily tragic ending of "Miss Saigon," but that's another matter).