BWW Reviews: BRIGADOON at Dutch Apple is a Great Escape
Alan Jay Lerner's and Frederick Loewe's BRIGADOON, their third collaboration, first arriving on Broadway in 1947, is revived fairly regularly, and that's no surprise, for "when ye love something deeply enough, anything is possible. Even miracles." And people love BRIGADOON. What's not to love? The score is responsible for a couple of beautiful popular standards, particularly "Almost Like Being In Love." Good-looking men are wearing kilts. (If you don't think that's important, ask the women in the audience.) Pretty girls are dancing. There's a love story - two stories, really. There's suspense, there's supernatural, there's bagpipes. All right, maybe the bagpipes aren't a draw. But once you're there, the bagpipes are a necessity - this is Scotland, after all.
The movie version from 1954 is what most people know of the show, however, and that's a shame. For all of Gene Kelly's talent, Cyd Charisse's presence, and Van Johnson's being Van Johnson, the movie, fearing censors and time constraints, cut and rearranged the show into something comparatively unsatisfying. One of those reasons it's unsatisfying is that BRIGADOON is a dancer's musical, and much of the dance originated by Agnes De Mille, including some actual Scottish folk and country dance, was cut. Fortunately, Dutch Apple director Victor Legaretta and choreographer Kerry Lambert have managed to put the ballet back in, as well as the songs cut from the movie. The result is a visual feast for anyone who enjoys stage dance - Lambert's work is by no means a complete revival of de Mille's triumph, but it's some of the best theatrical dance choreographed in this area lately and worthy of a look. The restoration of the sword dance and funeral dance cut from the movie are integral to the show, and they are a real delight to watch.
The book for this show is thin. It's so thin it has anorexia. Two hunters in Scotland stumble across an enchanted village that only appears for one day every hundred years. No one who lives in the village can leave or the enchantment will disappear, but visitors can come and go, which is how the villagers know it's a hundred years later. The hunters visit, one of them falls in love with a village girl, and a disappointed suitor of the girl's sister decides to run away, risking the village's continued existence. The hunters go back to New York, the village disappears, and the one hunter is now disappointed in love. The story was familiar even before the show - there are similar German legends and similar fairy tales. It's the music and dance that make this show; if you tried to analyze the plot, you'd have holes like swiss cheese.
In the Dutch Apple's presentation, the music and dance do make the show: Lambert's choreography is fine, the dancers are excellent, and there's some absolutely phenomenal singing. Village lass Fiona MacLaren is played by Colleen Gallagher, a classically trained singer whose voice could carry any show she cares to perform in, with a soprano strongly reminiscent of Julie Andrews. Tommy, the mighty New York hunter, is Adam Clough, a baritone with a more traditional musical theatre voice that knocks his "There But For You Go I" out of the Scottish cricket field. And if Fiona's sister's beau, Charlie Dalrymple, has a voice that stops the audience dead with its range and its clarity, it may be no surprise that actor Patrick Massey is a trained opera singer with a bel canto delivery that needs no microphone. Also fine is Dutch Apple veteran Elizabeth Brooks as Meg Brockie, the village girl with a heart of gold and an overly friendly disposition towards the opposite sex. All full of piss and vinegar, and dead set on sex, she tears into "The Real Love of My Life" and the infamous (and infamously funny) "My Mother's Wedding Day" with gusto enough for two. Not surprisingly, it is Meg Brockie whose songs and personality are virtually erased from the film version - if the movie is the only version you know, you are in for a treat when you see the stage version.
Local favorite Paul Glodfelter plays Fiona's father as a good, sturdy Scotsman, and veteran actor Gerry Konjura, husband of current Rainbow Dinner Theatre star Sherry Konjura, is a very fine Mr. Lundie, school teacher and authority figure of the village, who makes the wedding scene bring a tear to many in the audience. Dancer Emily Thomas, playing Kate Dean, performs the funeral dance, which, like the wedding sword dance, is a show stopper.
Even Legaretta's solid direction, the vocal performances, and Lambert's choreography can't disguise the fact that BRIGADOON shows its age and its flaws. But if you love pretty girls dancing, men in kilts, and a romance that works out no matter how contrived the getting there is, as well as some really rousing bagpiping (kudos to the two bagpipers who make the sound of the show what it is), and some singers who are well worth the price of admission, this is your show. It's an escapist mid-twentieth-century American musical; don't expect deep analysis of the theological implications of the miracle, the question of whether Charlie Dalrymple and Jean MacLaren are validly married, or whether Tommy can find Fiona again when he comes back from New York. Do expect humor at the expense of Scottish stereotypes. Most particularly, if your only experience of the show is the movie, don't expect this to be a Gene Kelly star vehicle - Tommy is the male lead, but the emphasis is on the village, not exclusively the Tommy/Fiona love story.
Adam Clough, on stage, may remind local audiences not so much of Gene Kelly, but of another actor who's played Gene Kelly parts in Lancaster lately, Curt Dale Clark. He's rugged enough for Tommy Albright, and says "I'm just now getting into proper age for actual leading men" - he started in regional theatre directly after high school. A veteran of the Derby Dinner Theatre, the Schoolhouse Theatre, and the Prathers' Broadway Palm, he is new to the Dutch Apple but one may hope to see more of him, and particularly to hear him - he enjoys "Lerner and Loewe, Rodgers and Hammerstein - the fun-to-sing stuff." His dream role, however, is the lead in Frank Wildhorn's JEKYLL AND HYDE. (This reviewer would put in a plea, not made lightly, for him to sing Javert in LES MISERABLES.) Colleen Gallagher, a graduate of Manhattanville College with a degree in music and a concentration in musical theatre, is a veteran of Gateway Playhouse and Arundel Barn Playhouse in Maine, as well as being a summer stock veteran in New York; this is her first BRIGADOON, but, one hopes, not her last. Until the next one, however, her range and vocal quality allow her to say, "I want Julie Andrews' career."
BRIGADOON is on stage until May 11 at Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre; call 717-898-1900 for tickets, or visit www.dutchapple.com.
Photo credit: Dutch Apple