BWW Review: BRIGADOON Dazzles at Footlite Musicals
Many of us find ourselves caught up in the hubbub of daily life, constantly being pulled this way, then that. It becomes so easy to lose your way and forget that there can be more. BRIGADOON calls to us out of the misty forest to remember a simpler time, when life was focused on living and loving.
The premise of BRIGADOON is so alluring: get lost in a forest, find an enchanted village, and get to leave behind the stress of the modern world. The village has such a charm, and the actors and actresses who emerged from the mist to bring it to light were a major factor in creating that charm. Each villager had a role to play and a distinct personality. The ensemble's attention to detail made BRIGADOON feel like a real town where everyone knows everyone else and is concerned for one another.
Amongst the townspeople, one of the most charming was Charlie Dalrymple, played by Donald Marter. He is full of joy as he prepares to marry Jean, and that joy spills forth in every song he sings. His excitement takes the form of the jaunty tune in "I'll Go Home with Bonnie Jean," but it also has a gentler side in "Come to Me, Bend to Me." I found that to be one of the most touching scenes in the play, watching him sit outside his future wife's home just longing for a glimpse of her. Marter's vocal performance only served to enhance that longing as he navigated a huge range dexterously and never once lost sight of his character's focus: the Bonnie Jean.
It seems BRIGADOON is meant to bring out the best of men when they're in love because Tommy Albright (Charlie Metzger) is another highlight of the show. His classical sound evoked the idea of an old Hollywood crooner, his voice deep and rich. His mastery of dynamics also lent an extra emotional dimension to his delivery, especially in "There But For You Go I."
Since the story of BRIGADOON would be far too sappy with nothing but lovestruck men as characters, Meg Brockie, as portrayed by Kristen Tschiniak, is there to break up the romance with some good old-fashioned fun (and lust). Her character's bawdy sense of humor and insistent ways make her a great source of humor in a play that would otherwise be too sweet and lovey-dovey. Meg's attempts at taking a tumble with Jeff Douglas (Ethan Mathias) and her ode to her mother's wedding day are sure to have you laughing and perhaps craving a chance to dance a jig.
Keep in mind when you see this that this musical was originally released during the Golden Age of Broadway in 1947, so there are some limitations that come with older material that cannot be disguised -its strong-minded postwar optimism, its thinly built folktale plot centering around a magical village, the abundance of quaint, Scottish stereotypes, and its perfect happy ending. However, even with these there is still plenty to enjoy in Footlite's BRIGADOON presentation.
Sydney Norwalk's (Fiona) soprano has an airy bloom and definitely enough power to do justice for all the operatic melodies, and her acting had a sort of easygoing warmth that never feels synthetic or forced. It was very a la the time. Charlie Metzger (Tommy) equally sings with assurance, and his acting exuded a sense of easy-going geniality that suggests why the lure of staying in BRIGADOON gets so easily under his skin. Their performance flowed together gracefully and they are a fine romantic match as lovers Tommy and Fiona. They also delivered the show's most popular songs, "Almost Like Being in Love" and "The Heather on the Hill."
Something has to be said about the talented ensemble. For me, cast willingly lept into this atmosphere with merry abandon, leaving audience members either to follow along and lose themselves in the whimsy, or stand on the sidelines, looking on with an air of 21st-century befuddlement. Another shout out to the technical crew for some quick and clean set changes. Linda Rees' choreography seemed like she had some firsthand knowledge of the original Agnes De Mille dances or did some fine research, and the result is often breathtaking. Under the baton of Orchestra Director Zak Tschiniak, the full orchestra brought glorious life to Loewe's score. Norwalk's voice was made for music like this, but the show is impeccably sung by the entire large ensemble.
Whatever the flaws you may think are in the material, this entertaining production is a vastly superior interpretation that erases any mundane memories of the lifeless 1954 Vincente Minnelli film.
BRIGADOON is sweet, funny, and heartwarming. It is nostalgic, making you wish for a simpler time and way of life. Don't miss your chance to visit! After all, it won't return for another hundred years... You can visit from now until October 14th!
Photo credit: Bill Phelan