Review: BRIGADOON at Shaw Festival

A Golden Age Gem Comes to Life Again

By: Nov. 27, 2023
Review: BRIGADOON at Shaw Festival

The golden age of Broadway found lilting infectious melodies melding with captivating, if often whimsical stories. Lerner and Loewe's 1947 BRIGADOON ticked all the boxes in a world fresh off of World War II. The Shaw Festival in Niagara on the Lake has revived it's 2019 production and this version shines even brighter than it's first outing.

While at first glance the fictitious town of Brigadoon may seem to be subject of a children's fairy tale full of cardboard characters, there is an inner simplicity that shines through. The original book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner (revised in this version by Brian Hill) finds 2 American GI's hunting in the highalnds of Scotland in 1946, when they happen upon an unmapped town, Brigadoon. But the inhabitants are stuck perpetually in the year 1746. An immediate romance ensues, but no one can ever leave Brigadoon, or a curse will befall the town. And an the unhappy American, Tommy, must choose whether to return to NY to marry someone he doesn't really love, or remain in Brigadoon in perpetuity with his newfound love

The glorious score by Frederick Loewe is full of sweeping ballads like "Being in Love,"  "The Heather on the Hill," and "Come to Me, Bend to Me." There are influences of operetta as well as modern dances, thanks to the choreography by then ground breaking choreographer Agnes DeMille. Bagpipes and fiddles complement the lush orchestrations to pay homage to all things Scottish.

Director Glynis Leyshon embraces the romanticism inherent in the story, where goodness reigns and true love can take many forms. The naivete of the villagers makes for some fun anachronisms and the town  harlot, Meg, is always nearby for comic relief. There is a sincerity that is beguiling in watching the villagers live a more simple way of life.

Returning cast members include the lovely Alexis Gordon as Fiona, the love interest of Tommy and Kristi Frank as Meg.  Gordon sings with a full throated clarion soprano and acts with genuine good nature.  Her duets with Tommy were romantic and sung with sweeping drama. Meanwhile Frank shines as the comedienne who can't resist the men. She quite often throws herself into the action, most notably in the charming "My Mother's Wedding Day."

Newcomers Stewart Adam McKensy as Tommy and Kevin McLachlan as his side kick Jeff both give winning portrayals of the men stuck in another time. McLachlan finds a fun, often deadpan delivery that everyone needs in a best buddy. McKensy brings a genuine sense of yearning for a true love, climaxing in his act II solo "There But For You Go I."

David Andrew Reid was an energetic ball of youthful optimism, as the young groom-to-be Charlie Dalyrymple. Reid is tall and dances with an athletic grace, making his solo "I'll Go Home With Bonnie Jean" a true show stopper. Choreography by Linda Garneau allows the talented dancers to shine, most notably in the " Wedding Dance/Sword Dance and Reel." where JJ Gerber and Graeme Kitagawa join the brooding Harry Beaton (played convincingly by Travis Seetoo). Special nod to the beautiful interpretive dancing of Genny Sermonia as Maggie, the heartbroken young lass. Here Garneau's choreography gives a fitting nod to DeMille's  unique style.

The overall design was indeed fitting for a story book, with charming cottages and misty, fog filled highlands designed by Pam Johnson. Effective projections by Corwin Ferguson were interesting but never obtrusive in breaking the spell of days gone by. Costumes by Sue LePage were colorful, with multiple layers of tartans and plaids for the villagers, and some lovely formal wear for the 1940's New Yorkers.

The large orchestra honored the lush  classic sound of Loewe, with  a fine Orchestral Adaptation by Music Director and Conductor Paul Sportelli.

Let the tale of "two wary hunters who lost their way" capture your heart, as told in this well crafted production. BRIGADOON ensures for a lovely outing to escape reality and revel in the glorious singing and dancing. Just the ticket to kick off the holiday season!

BRIGADOON plays at the Festival Theatre of the Shaw Festival in Niagara on the Lake, Ontario though December 23, 2023. Contact for more information.