Music by Frederick Loewe
Book and Lyrics by Alan J. Lerner
Original dances by Agnes de Mille
Gateway Theatre, Richmond
December 8-January 1
604-270-1812 or www.gatewaytheatre.com
It’s Christmas in the Highlands at Richmond’s Gateway Theatre where the lassies and lads have gathered to bring Lerner and Loewe’s Brigadoon to us flatlanders. The 1947 musical is a pleasant jaunt, though a bit of a museum piece not likely to have you leapin’ out of your kilt.
The story is a classic boy-meets-girler, with the twist that they’re from different centuries. Tommy (Mark Pawson), engaged but dissatisfied, and cynical Jeff (Leon Willey) are a couple of contemporary Canadian boys touring Scotland when they come upon a strange village amid the swirling mists of Phillip Tidd’s slightly cardboard-looking set and Shane Droucker’s moody lighting.
Seems that Brigadoon is under the spell of a magician who has made it disappear except for one day every century when it comes to life again. On this special day the villagers, with their quaint 300-year-old costumes and manners, are celebrating the wedding of Charlie (Jeremy Crittenden) and Jean (Chelsea Hochfilzer), and fending off the anger of jilted suitor Harry (Vince Kanasoot).
The village’s two hottest bachelorettes are immediately attracted to the newcomers. Lovely Fiona (Evelyn Thatcher), who sings about waiting for Mr. Right, finds him in Tommy, who goes with her to pick heather on the hill. Lusty milkmaid Meg (Laura Jaszcz), who likes her local single-malt and her men, goes after Jeff, but probably to satisfy post-war American cultural mores, he would curiously rather sleep than have sex with her. There’s surprisingly little culture shock on either side despite three centuries of difference.
In the strangely structured second act, we witness a death, then a wedding celebration, then a funeral dirge, then we’re back to the future before the abrupt ending.
A couple of lovely voices are in play here. Thatcher’s operatic soprano and Crittenden’s charming tenor make the most of the tame material, but there are no knockouts. The generally pedestrian score synthesizes generic Broadway tunes with low-key Scottish musical accents. Even the signature song, Tommy and Fiona’s Tin Pan Alley duet “It’s Almost Like Being in Love,” hardly makes an impression.
Jaszcz’s feisty Meg and Willey’s energetic, wisecracking Jeff liven things up but get relatively little stage time.
What I enjoyed most about David Adams’ production was the dancing, skillfully choreographed by Suzanne Ouellette. Within the large chorus of villagers, six young women and a couple of men beautifully combine ballet and Highland dance to counterpoint the action. The men’s traditional sword dance is also a delight.