BWW Review: Music Circus Lovingly Revives BRIGADOON
Brigadoon/book & lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner/music by Frederick Loewe/directed by Glenn Casale/choreographed by Bob Richard/Sacramento Music Circus at Wells Fargo Pavilion, Sacramento/through August 10 only.
Say what you will about legends, myths and miracles, but Brigadoon has a charm and appeal that can turn a nonbeliever into...well, at least make you rethink your existence, as you exult in the lavish musical score by Lerner & Loewe. Now in a lovely production at Sacramento's Music Circus in the Wells Fargo Pavilion in Sacramento, this early L & L work is receiving a rare revival through this Sunday August 10 only.
Dreamers are unhappy souls, at least as far as Jeff Douglas (Jason Graae) is concerned. This man is such an enigma as written by Alan Jay Lerner. He is a realist, hardly a romantic, but still claims to be happy with the way things are in his big city lifestyle in 1947 New York. He and Tommy Albright (Robert J. Townsend) pay a visit to Scotland and encounter the lost village of Brigadoon whose customs and dress date back to the 18th century. Tommy falls in love with Fiona MacLaren (Jennifer Hope Wills), but because he is already engaged to Jane Ashton (Karen Hyland) back in the States, backs away from romantic commitment...initially. As the day moves along - at the beginning he has no idea of how much value a day in the lives of these villagers holds - his ideas and goals change. Jeff is seduced by overly-flirtatious Maggie Anderson (Amanda Peet), but spurns her advances by saying "If sex were a hobby, you'd be a collector's item." The girl has unmitigated spunk, to be sure, but Jeff's reactions lead one to believe that maybe he might be...gay? Remember, this was the 40s, and these issues were not dealt with in plays, and especially a musical one of such saccharine tastes. The subject was taboo, but Jeff's behavior sure keeps you guessing, particularly when he is left all alone at play's end. Jeff and Tommy learn on the day of their visit that Brigadoon is actually two hundred years old and Fiona takes them to Mr. Lundie (Gordon Goodman) who explains the miracle.
In the 1700s a minister was afraid that the townsfolk would be destroyed by witches and other evil forces, so to protect them from the horrors of the outside world, he prayed to God that Brigadoon disappear from the map and reappear for just a single day every hundred years. The pact was sealed and this so-called miracle creates an even graver dilemma for Tommy. He can only stay, as an outsider, if he really loves one person in the town. If he chooses to go back to New York and his fiance, on the other hand, leaving Fiona, the woman he truly loves behind...where's the spark for future happiness?
On this day Fiona's sister Jean (Courtney Iventosch) is set to marry Charlie Dalrymple (Brandon Springman) to the objections of Harry Beaton (Luke Hawkins), who also claims to love her. Harry will stop at nothing to prevent the wedding, and if he can't and runs away from Brigadoon, as he threatens to do, he will ruin the miracle and the town will disappear forever.
Of course, it's a lot to buy into, and if you find the Highland mists and all of this folklore to be merely a dream, as Jeff claims, you will be missing the magic. Most of us wish at some point to escape, if only for a short while, the ugliness of our existence. The miracle of Brigadoon gives audiences the excuse to break away for two hours and delight in "Waitin' for My Dearie", "I'll Go Home with Bonnie Jean", "The Heather on the Hill", "Come to Me, Bend to Me", "Almost Like Being in Love", and the simply gorgeous "There But For You Go I".
The music circus cast, enlivened by Glenn Casale's inventive in.the.round staging and Bob Richard's bright choreographic moves for the Scottish dances, are all musically up to the challenges of making this dreamlike idyllic atmosphere a theatrical reality. Townsend and Wills make a handsome couple as do Springman and Iventosch. Wills and Springman stand out with special vocal finesse, as does Hawkins for his sensational footwork in "Sword Dance". Graae adds humor to every role he plays and his Jeff is no exception. Not his fault, but the character once again is a puzzlement as written. Peet is a hoot and holler as Maggie and knocks her two numbers out of the park with her powerhouse belting voice. Goodman, another fine singer, has no song here, but is excellent in his colorful retelling of the miracle as Lundie. Jeff Rizzo's musical direction is super and all the technical elements fall nicely into place, particularly the company's beautiful handmade costumes designed by Marcy Froehlich.
Go see Brigadoon through this Sunday only! It's a flawed musical to be sure, but what a beautiful score and Music Circus' deliciously deft ensemble will keep you consistently entertained.