By Markland Taylor
"Brigadoon" opens Goodspeed
Musicals' 2001 mainstage season with style and affection, not to
mention the best-looking cast the company has ever assembled. Thanks
to director Greg Ganakas, choreographer Peggy Hickey and the handsome performers,
"Brigadoon" seems as fresh and fair as heather on the
Since the musical is a fantasy, in which a town appears out of the
Scottish mists only once every 100 years, physicial beauty is
important. Aren't heroes and heroines in fair tales always
beautiful? Hero Tommy (James Clow) is
the epitome of the good-looking, clean-cut, American college boy next
door, and his Fiona (Amanda Serkasevich) is
everything a young woman of that name should be: lissome, with
red hair and flawless skin. Charlie Dalrymple
(Daniel Reichard) is almost too handsome.
As it happens, the men dominate this "Brigadoon,"
partly because of Clow's and Reichard's
strong presence and singing voices and the powerhouse dancing of Patrick
Mullaney as thwarted-in-love Harry. Serkasevich, her loveliness and appealing
personality aside, is handicapped by a thin singing voice and a
strained highlands accent. Clow's
singing is so much stronger than hers (his "Almost Like Being
in Love" is rousingly ardent) that she's completely overpowered
whenever they have a duet. Reichard also has a ringing singing
voice, along Irish tenor lines.
Virtually all of the roles are well cast, notably the
maturer ones, which are filled with distinction by performers such
as David Barron, Paul Carlin and Dale Hensley. Under Ganakas'
thoughtful direction, the fantasy of the musical is never allowed to
become cloying; whenever it threatens to do so, the down-to-earth
modernity of Clow's Tommy and
his sidekick Jeff banish it. David Rossner makes the happy choice
of underplaying the latter speaking role.
This production is set in 2001, though Brigadoon
itself is still in 1801, with lovely earth-colored period
costumes to match (thankfully, designer John Carver Sullivan doesn't
have a heavy hand with tartan). Lerner's strong book has been slightly updated,
including a dumb reference to Calvin McKlein, but basically no harm
has been done to it.
The score is, of course, enchanting. And
although some of the female singing voices are lacking, for the most
part it is given its due. The pit band under Michael O'Flaherty's
direction plays well, though sometimes the sheer soaring lyricism of
the songs calls out for a larger band, and some of the arrangements are
too brass-heavy. The rich full-chorus singing is never more magical than
in the final, unaccompanied reprise of the title song.
Hickey's balletic choreography pays homage to Agnes
de Mille, the musical's original choreographer, and to Scottish
dancing, but never slavishly. It's entirely appropriate that
she often evokes a Scottish "Giselle." The women swoon and swirl,
the men, led by Mullaney's thrilling Harry, hurtle and leap,
including a sword dance for first three, then six, men.
The Goodspeed's small stage makes fierce demands on
the set designer, and though Howard Jones' basic set isn't
particularly beautiful, it works wonders with necessary scene
changes by using a central craggy set piece that rotates and perambulates
to suggest everything from a Scottish mountain to a village balcony. A
first-rate bagpiper, Brian J. Cooper, adds to the highland
atmosphere of this rewarding "Brigadoon."
Choreographed by Peggy Hickey; musical direction by
Michael O'Flaherty. Set, Howard Jones; costumes, John Carver
Sullivan; lighting, Kirk Bookman; orchestrations, Dan DeLange;
stage manager, Donna Cooper Hilton. Goodspeed Musicals
executive director, Michael P. Price. Opened, reviewed April 20,
2001. Running time: 2 hours, 20 min.
With: Paul J. Gallagher, Natalie Hill, Kevin
Loreque, James R. Santos, Adam Souza, James Tabeek, Jennifer S.
Taylor, Melanie Vaughan, Anna Winthrop.