by Alan Jay Lerner & Frederick Loewe
Although Lerner & Loewe wrote several musicals, the only two that seem to get performed regularly around here are My Fair Lady and Camelot. My Fair Lady, of course, is a beloved classic all over the world, and who doesn't love the story of King Arthur? Compared to these two musicals, Brigadoon is relatively unknown. Although I probably saw it at some point when I was a kid, I don't remember anything about it. But when Dad said "Scotland", "magic" and "free tickets", I knew that I had to check it out.
Two Americans, Tommy and Jeff, head off to Scotland in the mid-1940s to hunt, but they end up lost and confused. As they stumble through the mist of the highlands, they discover the lost town of Brigadoon, a town that only appears once every hundred years. If ever one of the men or women of Brigadoon should leave the town, the magic spell will break and the entire town will disappear forever. Tommy, smitten with a young woman named Fiona, is tempted to forsake his friends and family to be with her.
Y'know how some musicals are all about the story? Wicked, for example, doesn't make much sense when you listen to the album if you don't know the story. Brigadoon is not really about the story - yes, there's a magical town and some people have relationships but a lot of it seems randomly tossed together. There's just enough of a plot to keep viewers moving from one scene to the next, but it isn't the point. Based on the performance I saw, Brigadoon is a chance to showcase a series of ballets and folk dances, tied together with songs that are vaguely like Scottish folk songs. So don't think about the story so much, because if you do you're quick to realize there are some serious plot holes: the 'miracle' of the town being preserved by the local priest happened two days ago by Brigadoon time. How on earth did anyone realize that there was something different about the town, and figure out that a hundred years passes while they sleep, in such a short period of time? Also, I'm pretty sure Jeff and Tommy were in Brigadoon for longer than a day. The sun rose and set an awful lot during their stay, based on the color changes of the sky. So when the two Americans returned home, it should have been a couple of hundred years into the future.
There was only one song from the musical that I recognized - "Go Home with Bonnie Jean". (I can't imagine where I've heard that song before, but it's definitely familiar.) I liked a lot of the dramatic music played during the choreographed dances - can't go wrong with bagpipes, right? - but good grief, the first act is nearly two hours long and I'd say that over half that time is just twirling ballet dancers hopping around the stage. One character, Meg, sings a couple of catchy songs - in one she bemoans her inability to find a good man, while in the other she recounts the horrors of her mother's wedding - but they don't actually contribute to the overall plot. They're just filler, and while I liked them I couldn't help but feel like they were just padding out the run time of the show.
Don't get me wrong, I think Lyric Theatre put on a great performance. The actors were enthusiastic and put great effort into the many dances. The weakness is definitely with Brigadoon itself, and not with the performers.