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Brigadoon by Alan Jay Lerner & Frederick Loewe, Spreckels Theatre Company, Rohnert Park CA

Reviewed by Suzanne and Greg Angeo

Photos by Eric Chazankin

Fanciful, Fun Brigadoon

Tyler Costin, Lauren Siler

Brigadoon, the latest in a series of musical offerings at the Spreckels Performing Arts Center, is a pleasant diversion from modern cares. Its irresistible score by Frederick Loewe, coupled with  enchanting lyrics and story by Alan Jay Lerner, has been a crowd-pleaser since it first opened on Broadway in 1947. The glorious 1954 film directed by Vincente Minelli, starring Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse, cemented Brigadoon’s reputation as a dazzling romantic fantasy.

The story begins one summer day in 1946. Two big-city American pals, Tommy and Jeff, are on a hunting vacation in the wilderness highlands of Scotland. They stumble across a tiny village that emerges dreamlike from the mist and seems to be from another time. Intrigued, Tommy and Jeff are drawn into the village and the festivities surrounding a wedding that day. They soon find themselves involved with the townsfolk, especially two young ladies. But there is something very odd about this village; because of a miracle performed by their pastor, each night while the villagers sleep, a century passes. The kindly folks of Brigadoon are now two  nights and 200 years into their future, with no end in sight. There will be another sunset, and another century. No villager may ever leave; otherwise Brigadoon will vanish into the mists of time, forever lost. The two men leave just before the sun goes down and return to New York City, but Tommy has fallen in love and is under Brigadoon’s spell. He longs to return, remembering the words of the village schoolmaster Mr Lundie: “If ye love someone deeply, anything is possible.”

According to an old theater saying, to make a musical believable, you sing when you can no longer speak, and you dance when you can no longer walk. This allows for the illusion of logic in an illogical situation. It offers a seamless emotional and physical transition for both performer and audience. It’s tough to pull off, to say the least. In their undertaking of Brigadoon, the Spreckels Theatre Company makes an ambitious effort, and for the most part, succeeds.

William Thompson, Heather Buck

Following a traditional musical formula, Brigadoon revolves around three romances. We have the lead couple, Tommy and Fiona, played by Tyler Costin and Lauren Siler. The comic partners are Jeff and Meg, played by William Thompson and Heather Buck. The betrothed couple at the foundation of the story is Charlie and Jean, played by Sean O’Brien and Abbey Lee.

When watching someone perform, there’s a little thrill of goosebumps when you see exceptional talent, and that thrill happens whenever O’Brien takes the stage. His powerful,  lyric Irish tenor voice is easily the best of the show, especially in the numbers “I’ll Go Home With Bonnie Jean” and “Come to Me, Bend to Me”. Lee plays his beloved Jean, and she delivers a strong, sympathetic performance with a fine voice. While Costin’s Tommy doesn’t seem quite the type to be roaming the highlands in search of big game, he’s got winsome appeal in the role, and a pleasant singing voice. Thompson as his sidekick Jeff provides the right amount of comic relief and bewilderment at Meg’s advances. Played by Buck, the boisterous Meg is a treat to watch, with her strong voice, clumsy eagerness and sincere infatuation with Jeff.  Siler as Fiona is lovely and confident in her role, but her singing is pitchy in spots, although she was good in her duets with Costin.

Sean O’Brien, Ensemble

Supporting cast performances are also uneven. Dwayne Stincelli is appropriately wise and wonderful in the small role  of Mr Lundie. Connor Figurate plays the jealous Harry Beaton with physical grace, especially in his execution of the Sword Dance, but his performance lacks the necessary anger and menace. The same can be said of a number of other performances; technically good but lacking a certain inner fire, or sense of urgency.

The 20-piece orchestra, directed by Cynthia Heath, does very well with the challenging score, despite occasional off notes. Choreographer Michella Snyder did a good job with the complex numbers, but some of the dances lacked uniformity and maybe just need more rehearsal time. There were some really excellent clan dances that seemed true to the period and people. Also lending an authentic feel to the show are the colorful plaid tartans, brought all the way from Scotland by costume designer Pamela Enz.  Another wardrobe triumph by Enz is the gorgeous 18th-Century wedding dress worn by bonnie Jean. Overall the costumes are quite wonderfully done.

Wayne Stincelli

Director Gene Abravaya makes good use of the theater’s Paradyne system, created by Spreckels to allow up to ten computer-controlled projectors to incorporate still and moving images into the action onstage. For Brigadoon, six of the projectors are used, mostly to provide a natural-looking backdrop for  village, forest and city. This gives a bright, dimensional look to the stage. However, it would have been a more dramatic effect if a critical scene near the end of the show could have shown the dwindling light of the setting sun. For some reason the light did not appear to change much during this scene. A more original use of Paradyne is seen in projected musical  film sequences representing flashback memories, but they were out of sync. Whether this was by accident or design is open for interpretation. Regardless, the effect is interesting and unlike anything you’ll see on any North Bay stage. The fog machine is often busy pumping out Scottish mist, sometimes a bit thickly, but it’s a fun effect and well-applied.

Brigadoon is an exhilarating show, nicely staged and choreographed. It’s perhaps not as cohesive as other recent musicals at Spreckels, and perhaps the Paradyne system could have been put to better use, but the show is well worth seeing.

When: Now through October 27, 2013

7:30 p.m. Thursday October 24

8:00 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays

2:00 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays

Tickets: $22 to $26 (reserved seating)

Location: Codding Theater at Spreckels Performing Arts Center

5409 Snyder Lane, Rohnert Park CA
Phone: 707-588-3400


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