THE BASICS: Brigadoon is being performed at the Shaw Festival in The Festival Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake through December 23. For tickets and for exact dates and times — https://tickets.shawfest.com/54057/54361
THUMBNAIL SKETCH: Brigadoon is a romantic musical fantasy from the golden age of Broadway.Stumbling upon an 18th century village that appears out of nowhere in Scotland for one day every century, Tommy, a modern man , meets Fiona, a woman from the past. Should he stay with her in Brigadoon or return to the world he knows and never see her again? Brigadoon’s glorious music by Alan J. Lerner and Frederick Loewe (the team behind My Fair Lady, Camelot, and Gigi) has been entrancing audiences for more than seven decades.
RUNTIME: Two hours and thirty minutes with one intermission
THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION:
This version of Brigadoon was revised by librettist Brian Hill in 2014 for the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, and The Shaw Festival previously performed a version of this revisal in 2019. Some of the changes (war is alluded to several times) are little jarring but many of them work well – moving “There But For you Go I” to Act 2 adds meat to Tommy’s return to Brigadoon and it’s nice that now a woman is the school teacher.
Direction by Glynis Leyshon is beautiful and thoughtful. I liked how the Brigadoonians greeted each other in the opening number. They were thrilled to see that they had all survived their magical 100 year sleep. I’ve never seen this in a production of Brigadoon before and it really set the tone. Brigadoon is someplace very different and special!
The choreography by Linda Garneau puts a smile on your face (“for the whole human race”). There are lots of appropriate use of circles, lines and other formations found in traditional folk dances. And I thought it was great that each time Charlie hit a high note, he was lifted into the air.
Music direction by Paul Sportelli and accompaniment by the 20 piece orchestra is musical theatre heaven! Kevin Lamotte’s lighting is gorgeous – I was especially taken with the deep purple shadows on the cottages.
Of course, there is a lot of fog. All self- respecting productions of Brigadoon sport a plethora of Highland mist. But set designer Pam Johnson and projections designer Corwin Ferguson have also provided a moving stag, a surprising swords effect, a huge tree with a trunkful of books, smoke coming out of the chimneys, and glorious backdrops – much more striking than the backdrops in the MGM version of Brigadoon!
Stewart Adam McKensy stars as Tommy. He is handsome and is a pleasant baritone, but he is bit glum — perhaps because of the war material added by revisionist Brian Hill. Mr. McKensy knocks it out of the park, however, with “There But For You Go I.”
Playing opposite him is Alexis Gordon who shines as Fiona with her exquisite voice and her take on the character as intelligent and forthright with a sense of humor.
Fiona’s sister, Jean, played by Madelyn Kriese, is perfectly delicate and graceful. And glowing David Andrew Reid, a fabulous tenor and dancer, stops the show with “I’ll Go Home With Bonnie Jean.”
Kristi Frank is vibrant and adorable as Meg, the minx. And Kevin McLachlan is Tommy’s sidekick, Jeff – a wry little pixie.
Travis Seetoo is electric as the angry Harry Beaton and Ginny Sermonia is touching and then anguished as the woman who loves him.
Brigadoon at the Shaw Festival is a must see! It is a pleasure from start to finish and a perfect holiday treat!!!
*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)
ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.
TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.
THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.
FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.
FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!
By Gail Golden
photos by David Cooper
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