Brigadoon – Concert Version
Nancy Salz – November, 2017
The only thing better than seeing a superlative production of Brigadoon is to see it with 2,749 other people who love the show as much as you do. The emotion pouring from the furthest reaches of the second balcony over the grand tier railing and onto the stage could have powered all the lights at City Center, where this show had a six performance run. By the time you read this, Brigadoon will once again have vanished into the Highland mist. What a shame!
Because Brigadoon had not had a New York revival in 37 years, many of you might not know the fanciful story. It takes place in 1946 when two Americans, Tommy Albright and Jeff Douglas go on a hunting trip to Scotland, where the town of Brigadoon appears through the forest mist.
When they investigate, they find all the townspeople dressed in 18th century clothing preparing for the wedding of Jean MacLaren and Charlie Dalrymple to be held that evening. Tommy meets Fiona MacLaren, with whom he quickly falls in love. Jeff meets Meg Brockie, who takes him for a little frolic her cabin. The hunters learn that the town has been given a miracle: To escape the horrors of 18th century Scottish witchery the town goes to sleep for a hundred years each night. If someone tries to leave, Brigadoon will disappear forever. When Harry Beaton, a man spurned by his true love Jean, tries to leave the town, he is chased down and dies. Brigadoon is saved. Tommy, now completely in love with Fiona, is talked out of staying in Brigadoon by Jeff. After they return to New York City, Tommy cannot stop thinking of her The hunters return to the forest to find that Brigadoon has once again vanished. Tommy’s fierce love awakens the town and Tommy and Fiona live happily ever after – which in this story is a long, long time!
This concert production of Brigadoon was directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon with the same depth and romanticism as his divine An American in Paris. It starred Kelli O’Hara, who arguably possesses the most gorgeous soprano in the American musical theatre today. Patrick Wilson was her love, Tommy. I was concerned he wouldn’t have as strong a voice as Stephen Pasquale, whom he replaced a few weeks before the production began rehearsals, but he was excellent. And his acting brought believability to this role that I hadn’t felt before. Assif Mandvi was the perfect comic relief as Jeff, a non-singing role. Stephanie J. Block was hysterical as the frisky, sexy Meg. Charlie was played by Ross Lekites, a new name to me. His tenor voice is gorgeous; I wish he had had more than two songs. Sara Esty, lately the lead in the national tour of An American in Paris, brought innocence and grace to her role as the bride, Jean. Patricia Delgado, as the grieving Maggie Anderson, nearly had the audience in tears with her dancing. At one point she rolled on the floor by the dead body of Harry, her hoped for husband, and held onto her foot the way a sad child would clutch a stuffed bear.
But it was Robert Fairchild, the former New York City Ballet principal and star of An American in Paris, as the spurned and forlorn Harry Beaton, who danced rings around the rest of the splendid dancers in this company. He exuded frustration and rage at being held captive in Brigadoon. Wheelden added a dance for him in the song “Come to Me Bend to Me.” As Charlie, the future groom, sang to Jean, his future bride, Fairchild expressed his anguish through dance high above them. It was painful and beautiful to watch.
The Lerner and Loewe score – “Almost Like Being in Love,” “The Heather on The Hill,” “From This Day On,” to name a few – is as glorious as ever. It was the team’s first big success. The wonderful Rob Berman led the City Center Encores! Orchestra, 29 strong. The huge orchestra was a treat, as always, and sat on the stage behind the action.
Because this was billed as a concert production, the costumes (by Emily Rebholz) and scenery (actually scenic projections by 59 Productions) were minimal but workable. I didn’t miss anything more elaborate. With the talent on the stage and a chorus of 24 singers and dancers, who needed scenery?
Brigadoon was my first musical. I saw the 1947 original production and have loved it ever since. I saw many early revivals and even flew to Chicago to see the Goodman’s production. But I don’t recall seeing a performance I loved more. Please, someone – anyone – take this production to Broadway!
Music by Frederick Loewe; Book and Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner; Directed and Choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon; Music Direction by Rob Berman; Starring Kelli O’Hara, Patrick Wilson; Robert Fairchild, Stephanie J. Block, Patricia Delgado, Sara Esty, Rich Hebert, Jamie Jackson, Ross Lekites, Aasif Mandvi, and Dakin Matthews.