Brand New Production of BRIGADOON Plays the Goodman Theatre, Now thru Aug 10
This summer, it's "almost like being in love!" Goodman Theatre produces the first large-scale, professional revival of Brigadoon -- Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick's Loewe's legendary musical of Broadway's Golden Age -- in more than three decades. Under director/choreographer Rachel Rockwell, a company of 28 actors, dancers and singers breathe new life into 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. With adapter Brian Hill, Rockwell 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 today, June 27 - August 10 in the Albert Theatre (opening night is Monday, July 7) and is appropriate for adults and families with children aged 10+. Tickets ($25 - $97; subject to change) are on sale now at GoodmanTheatre.org/Brigadoon, by phone at 312.443.3800 or at the box office (170 North Dearborn). The Goodman is grateful to its production sponsors: JPMorgan Chase is the Major Corporate Sponsor and Allstate Insurance Company and PwC LLP are the Corporate Sponsor Partners. National Endowment for the Arts provided Production Support, and Towers Watson is the Opening Night Sponsor. Chicago Tribune is the Media Partner.
"One of Chicago's preeminent director/choreographers, Rachel Rockwell and her incomparable team of collaborators have created a production of Brigadoon that is arguably more powerful today than it was nearly 70 years ago-a story in which the possibilities of love, redemption and an unconquerable human spirit are even more essential in a world too often determined to destroy them," said Artistic Director Robert Falls. "We are grateful to Liza Lerner for entrusting us with this important piece of her father's legacy in a production that is at once the same mysterious, romantic masterwork that audiences remember and cherish, as well as something fresh and exciting for a new generation to appreciate."
When Brigadoon debuted on Broadway in 1947, it was Lerner and Loewe's third musical-and the one that established them as a formidable Broadway composing team. The plot, according to Lerner, occurred to him when Loewe offhandedly remarked that "faith moves mountains." When American tourists Tommy and Jeff become lost on vacation in Scotland, they stumble into a town that isn't on their map. Eventually they learn that Brigadoon was once a bustling town but now only appears for one day each century. While the two men sort out the town's curious circumstances-including that no outsiders can stay unless they fall in love, and no resident can ever leave or the village will vanish forever-Tommy meets the love of his life. But what happens when the day ends, and Brigadoon fades into the mountain mist for another century?
"I'm often asked 'why revive Brigadoon now?' and my response every time is, 'why not now!' Of my father's most memorable works-My Fair Lady, Camelot and Gigi, among them-Brigadoon is the most romantic. The music is deliriously beautiful. And most importantly, I've found the right storytellers in Rachel Rockwell and Brian Hill," said Liza Lerner. "Chicago is a great theater town, and the Goodman is world-renowned for its high quality productions. I'm so happy to be here."
Multiple Joseph Jefferson Award-winning director/choreographer Rachel Rockwell has earned a reputation for her extensive work with large-scale musicals in Chicagoland theaters (including Drury Lane Theatre, Marriott Theatre and Paramount Theatre ) and named "Best Director of 2010" by Chicago magazine and the 2013 "Chicagoan of the Year" by the Chicago Tribune.
"I think we've found a beautiful way to create that impressionistic, fleeting, ethereal feeling while bringing a greater sense of authenticity to the story by using historical context to up the stakes for the town's need for self-preservation," said Rockwell. "We're not going to burden the piece unnecessarily because it's a very charming story, but we are pushing the emotional boundaries a lot."
The soaring idealism of Brigadoon contrasts sharply with the savage period of history in which the story is set: the Scottish Highlands of 1746, when the Battle of Culloden resulted in clans' eviction from their ancestral lands as retribution for participating in the uprising. The pursuit of Scottish independence remains a heated political issue today.
"When we nod to the historic events of the time, the villagers' choice to preserve their way of life by seceding from their besieged land becomes not a whimsical dream but a brave, passionate act of courage," said Drama Desk Award nominee Brian Hill. "It's a joy to work with Rachel, because we both deeply love and respect Brigadoon and see it in exactly the same way. The process of freshening the story, humor and characters has been about making sure these characters have truthful, human through-lines."
Music director Roberta Duchak and orchestrator Josh Clayton use new orchestrations that add period-specific Scottish sounds to two-time Tony Award winner Frederick Loewe's score of 14 memorable songs, including "Almost Like Being in Love," "The Heather on the Hill," "Waitin' For My Dearie," "There But For You Go I" and "I'll Go Home with Bonnie Jean."
"Frederick Loewe's score is among the most glorious music ever written for musical theater, each song having a wonderful emotional journey to it. Our 13-piece orchestra uses a lot of doubling to bring it to life in the spirit in which it was created," said Duchak, who most recently collaborated with Rockwell on Les Miserables. "In addition, we'll weave in Scottish tenor drum, sopranino recorder, penny whistles and, of course, bagpipes, to evoke the sounds of 18th century Scotland."
Along with associate choreographer Gordon Pierce Schmidt, Rockwell also incorporates elements of traditional Scottish dance, which she notes is "similar to ballet, so it's already a good marriage for this classical score," into the show's choreography and "nods to certain Highland and country dances in the footwork, but we're definitely taking theatrical liberties; we could never hope to master in a few short weeks a discipline that people spend their lives perfecting."
Because the town of Brigadoon appears for only 24 hours, time of day is as important to the scenic design as the moss-covered houses of the Highlands and mountain mist.
"Brigadoon is real but not real; we wanted to create a world that feels earthy and rooted yet magical, airy and light," said set designer Kevin Depinet, a frequent Rockwell collaborator whose previous Goodman productions include The Iceman Cometh. "As I was researching Scotland, every photo of the Highlands had an epic sky that seemed to stretch on forever-and I immediately knew how we could track the time of day. With Rachel, we design the transitions as much as the actual scenery; our production of Brigadoon needs an active, easily transformative space, so we've favored projections (by Shawn Sagady) to imitate location over traditional drops, bricks and mortar."
The fabric used for many of the costumes in the Goodman's production comes from tartan mills in Scotland. The kilts are handmade by a shop in Inverness, which costume designer Mara Blumenfeld discovered on a research trip earlier this year.
"The Dress Act, a 1746 ruling that prohibited the Scots from wearing Highland Dress (or tartans), resulted from the failure of the Jacobite uprising and their defeat at the Battle of Culloden. So the fact that the citizens of Brigadoon retain their Highland Dress and celebrate their cultural identity underscores the greatness of the sacrifice that was made to preserve Brigadoon in its suspended reality," said Blumenfeld, who most recently designed costumes for Mary Zimmerman's The White Snake. "Rachel and I felt it important to keep the look of the show tartan-free in the beginning to give the show a rural, pastoral feel, and reveal the full pageantry and pride of the traditional Scottish dress a little later."
As a young man, Alan Jay Lerner (1918 - 1986) earned his living writing scripts for radio shows; in 1942, he met the Austrian-born composer Frederick Loewe (1901 - 1988) who worked as an accompanist for silent movies. The two soon collaborated on a project called Life of the Party, which enjoyed a nine-week run in Detroit, but went no further. Their partnership continued with their first Broadway production-1943's What's Up?-with choreographer and director George Balanchine, followed by The Day Before Spring, a 1945 musical about a married woman who encounters an old flame at a college reunion.
Next, the team set out to create a musical with a serious, high-stakes love story-Brigadoon. Laced with Agnes de Mille's memorable dance sequences, Brigadoon became a critical and box office hit and ran for a year and a half on Broadway. An MGM film version followed in 1954, featuring Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse; a 1966 television adaptation featured Robert Goulet, Peter Falk, Sally Ann Howes and ballet star Edward Villella. Brigadoon enjoyed several New York revivals through the ensuing decades, capped by a Tony-nominated revival in 1980. In the ensuing decades, the magic of Brigadoon's story and score has reappeared mostly in high school, college and community theater productions.
Following Brigadoon, Lerner and Loewe created Paint Your Wagon (1951) while each pursued separate projects, with Lerner winning an Academy Award for the screenplay of An American in Paris. They were back on Broadway by the mid-1950s with My Fair Lady, based on George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion and starring Rex Harrison and a 19-year-old Julie Andrews, which earned six Tony Awards (including Best Musical) and ran for a record-setting 2,717 performances. Critic Brooks Atkinson declared it "one of the best musicals of the century."
The two men continued their storied partnership on such projects as Camelot (on Broadway in 1960, and on film in 1967) and Gigi (which debuted as a film in 1958, and was adapted for the stage in 1973). But by the mid-1960s, rock 'n' roll had supplanted Broadway albums as the nation's most popular musical genre, and Lerner and Loewe-products of the early part of the century-faded in popularity. Eventually going their separate ways, Lerner worked on more musicals including On a Clear Day You Can See Forever and Coco. Loewe primarily retired, though he reunited with Lerner to write music for the 1974 film adaptation of The Little Prince.
Screening of the movie Brigadoon in Millennium Park's Summer Film Series at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion (201 E. Randolph)
July 29 at 6:30pm | FREE
A free screening of the 1954 movie Brigadoon starring Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse, plus a behind-the-scenes look at the Goodman's production. Take a seat at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion or spread out a blanket on the Great Lawn to watch favorite films on a state-of-the-art, 40-foot LED screen. The FREE Summer Film Series is presented by the Millennium Park Foundation, co-curated with the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. For more information, visit millenniumpark.org, call 312.742.1168, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter, @Millennium_Park.
Theater Thursday at Goodman Theatre
July 3 at 6pm | $30 with promo code TTHURS
A pre-show reception with hors d'oeuvres, a whisky tasting and a Scottish bagpipe presentation, including remarks from a member of the Goodman's artistic team.
Meet Rachel Rockwell, Roberta Duchak and Brian Hill at the Goodman Theatre Artist Encounter
July 6 at 5pm |$10 general public, $5 Subscribers, Donors, students
Artist Encounters bring together audiences and Goodman artists in an intimate environment for a behind-the-scenes look at the plays and the playmaking process. Join Brigadoon director/choreographer Rachel Rockwell, music director Roberta Duchak and adaptor Brian Hill as they discuss the show in a conversation moderated by Goodman Theatre Producer Steve Scott.
Monday Night Live at Petterino's - Performances from the cast of Brigadoon
Monday, July 14, 7pm | Petterino's | FREE admission; prix-fixe menu available
Host Denise McGowan welcomes the cast of Brigadoon to this weekly open-mic showcase.
Pre- and Post-Show Discussions at Goodman Theatre
Arrive early or stay late for discussions about the play with members of the artistic team | Goodman Theatre | FREE
Pre-show (7pm): July 11, 18, 25 and August 1 | Post-show: Every Wednesday and Thursday evening through July 31
In addition, catch Brigadoon around town: Cubs vs. Mets (June 5, Wrigley Field); Chicago Loop Alliance's ACTIVATE event (June 5, Chicago Theatre Alley); Chicago Fire vs. Seattle Sounders FC (June 7, Toyota Park); and Chicago Scots' 28th Annual Scottish Festival & Highland Games (June 20 and 21 at Hamilton Lakes in Itasca).
Visit the new interactive microsite, GoodmanTheatre.org/VisitBrigadoon, to learn about the show, "meet the villagers" and participate in social media contests for exclusive prizes.