`Brigadoon' production lets music shine through

Musical: The Annapolis Chorale performs Lerner and Loewe's tale of a mysterious Scottish town.

February 17, 2000|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Over the past season, the Annapolis Chorale's musical director, J. Ernest Green, has been building a repertory group of soloists for popular and classical concerts.

Last February with "Guys and Dolls," he introduced soprano Amy Cofield, bass-baritone Stephen Markuson and tenor Tom Magette. Elizabeth Saunders made her debut in September at the opening pop concert, "Celebration of Song."

Because I had heard these artists, "Brigadoon" held great promise for Saturday, but what a special musical evening it was. The chorale's version of Lerner and Loewe's first hit sparkled with excitement from the first note.

This "Brigadoon" had a purity about it that made fully staged versions seem almost excessive. The chorale showed there was no need for fancy costumes, elaborate sets, cumbersome dialogue or even for much stage space.

The stage at Maryland Hall was filled with musicians -- the full chorale in the back with the Annapolis Chamber Orchestra in front left a spot about 8 feet by 3 feet for the soloists and actors.

Green's minimal staging worked effectively, with nothing getting in the way of the music. His backdrop of a blue evening sky with a few stars and a sliver of a moon worked well, and it changed colors to match the mood of the music. Most importantly, there was no dead time for set changes.

Costumes consisted of tartans placed over the shoulders of chorus members and soloists and Scottish kilts for a few men.

The story tells of American tourists Tommy Albright and Jeff Douglas, who lose their way in Scotland and discover Brigadoon, a town stuck in the 1700s whose residents come alive for one day every 100 years. For the chorale's production, some smoke at stage front created the mist-shrouded town of Brigadoon.

Tommy and Jeff arrive on the wedding day of Jean McLaren and Charlie Dalrymple. Jean's would-be lover, Harry Beaton, is heartbroken and tries to leave the village -- a forbidden act. Excitement is created as Charlie and Tommy run down the aisles in pursuit of him.

Not many choreographers could have surpassed the stark drama of a lone piper at the back of the theater announcing a funeral procession as six men carried Beaton's body down the aisle and onto the stage.

The chorus and orchestra set the scenes with lovely renditions of "Once in the Highlands" and "Brigadoon," and the soloists brought the story and score to life. Perhaps because this 1947 show isn't performed as often, it seems fresher than Lerner and Loewe's later and better-known works, "My Fair Lady" and "Camelot."

Magette was appealing as bridegroom Charlie, his lilting Irish tenor well-suited to "I'll Go Home with Bonnie Jean."

As American tourist Tommy, who falls in love with Jean's older sister Fiona, Markuson displayed a bass-baritone voice that can only be described as matinee-idol thrilling. And the star power doubled when big-voiced soprano Co-field, as Fiona, joined Markuson in the duet "The Heather on the Hill."

Cofield was charming in her solo "Waitin' for My Dearie," sung to Jean.

Saunders was a delightfully high-spirited, flirtatious Meg Brockie, who handled the complex lyrics of "The Love of My Life" easily and did full justice to all her songs.

Together, Green, the orchestra, chorus and soloists proved that the only essential needed to create an exciting evening of theater is a talented cast stirred by genius, concentrating on the music. This was done so well that the chorale made the more ordinary fully staged versions seem a bit overblown.

Pub Date: 2/17/00

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