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Brigadoon (Rohnert Park)

Quick, name a song from “My Fair Lady”. Easy – “The Rain in Spain”, “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face”, etc. How about “Camelot”? You should get the title tune at least. Ok, now how about “Brigadoon”? Chances are you’ll come up blank.

Written by the same team as the aforementioned productions (Alan Jay Learner and Frederick Loewe), “Brigadoon” is probably the least well-known of the Learner-Loewe collaborations. While quite successful at its time, it was soon overshadowed by their subsequent work. I’ll be the first to admit that my first reaction to the news that the Spreckels Theatre Company would be mounting a production was – “Meh.” I mean, it’s a nice show and all, but there’s a reason people don’t think of it along the lines of the other shows. The average person might have a fleeting familiarity with it, (younger audiences might recognize it from a “Family Guy” parody) but the majority of folks just don’t know the show. And audiences just don’t go to shows they don’t know. So what was Gene Abravaya thinking when he plunked this show into the Spreckels season?

Probably that audiences SHOULD know this show. I caught one of their last dress rehearsals before they opened this weekend, and I have to tell you that my admittedly low expectations were exceedingly and pleasantly surpassed. Spreckels’ “Brigadoon” is one of the sweetest, nicest, and most satisfying theatrical experiences I’ve had in a while.

“Brigadoon” tells the story of American tourist Tommy Albright (Tyler Costin) and his best friend Jeff (William Thompson) who, while hiking through the Scottish Highlands, happen upon a quaint Scottish village that, for some reason, isn’t on their map. Things aren’t quite what they seem in Brigadoon, and while discovering the truth about this special place, the engaged-to-be-married-back-in-the-states Tommy falls in love with a local girl (Lauren Siler as Fiona McClaren.) Will Tommy stay in Brigadoon with his new love? Why can’t Fiona (or anyone else)just leave the village? Will true love triumph?

Of course it will. And this production triumphed in warming over this curmudgeon’s heart. How did it manage this seemingly impossible feat? Through the miracle of modern science – the science of chemistry.

I don’t care how magnificent a set (though Elizabeth Bazzano’s is), how colorful the costumes (though Pamela Enz’s are), how energetic the choreography (Michella Snyder & Company do it again), or how imaginative the lighting (Eddy Hansen’s usual luminescent job), if the leads in a romantic musical don’t have chemistry you don’t have a show. Not only do the leads in this show have that chemistry (and magnificent voices to match), the entire cast has that chemistry. Truly an ensemble piece, “Brigadoon” is populated with a plethora of Bay Area talent, including strong supporting work from Sean O’Brien (Charlie Dalrymple) and the always reliable Dwayne Stincelli (Mr. Lundie).

Now about those songs. Even after seeing the show, I still probably couldn’t name one if pressed. But I have to tell you – sitting in the theatre, surrendering to the moment- that the songs are beautiful, fun, life affirming, invigorating, and just plain joyful. It was a true pleasure to listen to this show. Musical Director Cynthia Heath and the live orchestra provided the base from which the cast could musically soar with their strong, emotive voices. Michella Snyders’s choreography complimented the score with a mixture of traditional Scottish movements and American dance. The entire cast does admirable work in the large production numbers.

Speaking of the cast, a quick note on accents. Since this show is set in the Scottish Highlands, it would be tough to avoid the use of a Scottish brogue. With an inexperienced cast, you run the danger of running into Warner Bros cartoon-voice territory (Aye! What a bonnie lass! Hoots mon!) or worse, Star Trek (“She’ll no tak it Captain, she’s brakin’ up!) This cast did just fine, avoiding cartoonish vocalizations and maintaining the accents throughout the show. Well, at least 95% of the time. An accent was dropped on occasion, but only nitpickers like me would probably notice.

In summation, my description of the songs would be an apt capsule review of this show. “Brigadoon” is beautiful, fun, life affirming, invigorating, and just plain joyful. If you know “Brigadoon”, you’ll be very pleased with this production. If you don’t know “Brigadoon”, go ahead and take a chance on an unknown. Don’t be surprised if you end up having an enjoyable night of theater and feeling a little better about life in general. Even if you can’t name one of the damn songs.

Brigadoon

Oct 11th – 27th

Spreckels Performing Arts Center
5409 Snyder Lane
Rohnert Park, CA 94928
(707) 588-3400

www.spreckelsonline.com

(Photos by Eric Chazankin)

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