'Brigadoon' is timeless, lively fun

June 19, 1994|By Charlotte Moler | Charlotte Moler,Contributing Writer

Don't expect sequined show girls or helicopters landing on stage. But if your idea of heaven is a simpler place and time, then "Brigadoon" may be the ultimate in escapist entertainment.

The fact that this vintage Lerner and Loewe musical romance is dated is its principal charm, for "Brigadoon" is an 18th-century village stuck in time. The premise is that the minister, worried that his blissful village would be corrupted by the encroaching evils of civilization, prayed for a miracle to preserve Brigadoon forever from the outside world.

No wonder this show was a huge hit in 1947. After two world wars, the idea of a perfectly preserved dream world must have enchanted audiences. And it still does today.

The Phoenix Festival Theater production, which opened Friday, will be performed at 3 p.m. today and continues through June 26.

It tells this simple tale straightforwardly, with no attempt to update the story or modernize the characters. Even the outdated attitudes expressed by the clansmen that "when a lass marries, she must learn to listen" are more quaint than offensive, mainly because the female characters are so strong.

The story line concerns two New Yorkers on a hunting expedition in Scotland who lose their way and stumble upon a strange town that's not on the maps. After some comical encounters, it quickly develops that the restlessly romantic Tommy falls in love with a village woman, Fiona. Will he stay in Brigadoon forever with his lady love or return to the real world?

Aside from some hesitant vocal entrances and sound problems, the preview performance Thursday evening was quite polished. A warm ambience permeated the production, and director Todd Starkey should be applauded for creating such a wonderful sense of kinship among the townspeople of Brigadoon. He was aided tremendously in this task by costumer Carol Lee Ford, who took care to color-coordinate the various clans of Brigadoon. The bright gold and red and rich tartan plaid costumes set against the emerald hills of Terri Raulie's set and the azure skies of Bill Price's lighting were a visual feast.

Although the pace was generally lively, a few of the ballads seemed static and would benefit from more imaginative staging. And, some transitions between scenes and musical numbers were rather rough.

These minor flaws are easily forgiven in light of Mr. Starkey's classic staging of the Act I finale, the wedding of two townsfolk. Led by Master Bagpiper Jim Britcher, the villagers paraded down the aisles to assemble on stage, the colorful banners of their clans held high. With all the pomp and pageantry befitting the occasion, it made for a glorious theatrical moment.

As the lovestruck Tommy and Fiona, Jeff Burch and Mary Elizabeth Mullin, sang Frederick Loewe's sonorous ballads and duets beautifully. The blend of Mr. Burch's ringing tenor and Ms. Mullin's lilting soprano was a consistent delight, and their rendition of "Almost Like Being in Love" was the vocal highlight.

The choreography was ambitious, and what the dancers lacked in technique they made up for in spirit. Special mention must go to Joy Schiebel for her vivacious portrayal of the spunky Meg. Also to Fred Isgrig as the town father and Lou Ghitman as Tommy's sidekick.

Ticket information: 836-4211.

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