Review Roundup: Goodman Theatre's BRIGADOON in Chicago

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Review Roundup: Goodman Theatre's BRIGADOON in Chicago

Goodman Theatre presents BRIGADOON, the first large-scale professional revival in more than three decades. The production opened on July 7, 2014.

Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick's Loewe's legendary musical of Broadway's Golden Age, under director/choreographer Rachel Rockwell, tells the enchanting tale of an 18th century Scottish village that appears every century for one day only -- and the complications that arise when it's discovered by two 20th century Americans. Book writer Brian Hill revisits the libretto for this production, while music director Roberta Duchak and an orchestra of 13 use new orchestrations to enhance Loewe's lilting score. Brigadoon runs at the Albert Theatre.

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Rachel Weinberg, BroadwayWorld: Goodman Theatre's production of Lerner and Loewe's 1947 musical "Brigadoon" lovingly pays homage to the tradition of classic American musical theatre while also retaining a sense of exuberance and delight...this production does not shy away from spectacle and largely has the talent to back it up. The show preserves Lerner and Loewe's lush music and lyrics with an updated book by Brian Hill that provides an even sense of pacing and storyline...The Goodman's "Brigadoon" truly intertwines all the elements of musical theater to revive this classic show and sweep audiences up into the story.

Charles Isherwood, The New York Times: At the Goodman Theater here, the musical has been given a first-class revival that boasts an infectious buoyancy of spirit and a welcome absence of postmodern flourishes. It's almost like being back in 1947, when the show opened to become one of the most beloved musicals of the era...The kilts flap and fly, the bagpipes pipe away, and rapturous music, including the show's signature song, "Almost Like Being in Love," flows forth from start to finish. Most gratifyingly, the production makes you feel that the director and choreographer, Rachel Rockwell, loves this musical as dearly and sincerely as any other, and feels no need to offer any blushing apology for its deep-dyed romanticism.

Chris Jones, The Chicago Tribune: One aim of director Rachel Rockwell's new, revisionist production of "Brigadoon"...is to rescue "Brigadoon," famous for its score for the past 67 years, from any and all such Brigadoonery...Even though its underwritten final scene remains notorious, "Brigadoon" really does not have to be all gift-shop comic schmaltz, especially not with these beautiful songs. Its storytelling comes with life-and-death stakes; if anyone leaves "Brigadoon," the town is lost forever...significant, worthy work has been done here. Much of the singing is delightful...For sure, the depiction of Scottish history is more thoughtful and authentic throughout...The Goodman's "Brigadoon," which also benefits greatly from Mara Blumenfeld's spectacularly colorful and textured costumes, certainly offers a fresh visual take on the title, without sacrificing the spectacle. But Hill will have to go further in revising the book if he really wants to rescue "Brigadoon" from Brigadoonery.

Albert Williams, Chicago Reader: In Goodman Theatre's excellent new version of Brigadoon...the evil that the village avoids is very real. It's war--specifically, the 1745-'46 uprising of Scottish highlanders against the British monarchy. Hill's libretto underscores a thematic connection between the 18th-century conflict and the 20th-century world war from which Tommy has returned, disillusioned and emotionally lost. Director-choreographer Rachel Rockwell and Hill seek to make Brigadoon resonant for audiences besieged by daily news of bloodshed around the world--Israel, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Nigeria, central Africa--and anxious about American involvement in the endless, ever-escalating violence. Rockwell and musical director Roberta Duchak have gathered a first-rate cast, headed by soprano Jennie Sophia and baritone Kevin Earley as Fiona and Tommy. Their soaring voices are grounded in simple, honest characterizations.

Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times: Earley and Sophia are beautifully understated actors with ravishing voices that soar in such classics as "Almost Like Being in Love" and "The Heather on the Hill," with Sophia's heart-piercing rendition of "From This Day On" and Earley's fierce rendering of "There But For You Go I" both achingly beautiful. Roberta Duchak's musical direction, and a superb orchestra led by Valerie Maze, serve Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's dreamy score to perfection...In the end, "Brigadoon" is an enchanting story of love and faith, driven by a heightened awareness of mortality. Call it a tale of hidden optimism.

Kris Vire, Time Out Chicago: Though Frederick Loewe's lushly romantic score holds up gorgeously, Alan Jay Lerner's book...is often pegged in modern productions as corny and dated. The Lerner estate encouraged director Rachel Rockwell and writer Brian Hill to freshen up the book...But whatever Hill's edits to Lerner's book, he hasn't fully addressed its problems..And I suspect Hill's changes introduce a new problem. The way Tommy now talks to Jeff about his fiancée Jane early in the show, before they come upon Brigadoon, suggests that he was very much in love with her up until the moment he suddenly wasn't, and is planning on going through with the wedding only because that's what people do.

Photo Credit: Liz Lauren

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