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Brigadoon
Spreckels Theatre Company
Review by Patrick Thomas

Also see Jeanie's review of Rich and Famous and Richard's reviews of Beautiful and Bengal Tiger in the Baghdad Zoo


Michella Snider and Connor Figurate
"If ye love someone deeply, anythin' is possible." This phrase is at the heart of Brigadoon, the 1947 Lerner and Loewe (My Fair Lady, Camelot) musical, currently revived in a new production by the Spreckels Theatre Company at the Codding Theater in Rohnert Park. But if love indeed conquers all, there is a mighty mountain to climb for Tommy and Fiona, the young lovers at the heart of the story.

For Fiona (Lauren Siler) lives in Brigadoon, a village in the Scottish Highlands that has been enchanted so that it appears out of the mists for but one day every one hundred years. The world turns on, but Brigadoon remains in a time of idyllic simplicity, a world of wise teachers, bawdy milkmaids and ancient traditions.

Tommy (Tyler Costin), on the other hand, is a New Yorker vacationing in Scotland with his bosom buddy (and constant tippler) Jeff (William Thompson). While hiking, the pair lose their way, see the village appear out of the mist and head toward it, seeking directions back to their lodgings.

When Tommy and Fiona meet and fall in love—as we know they must—they will face the question posed to every couple that doesn't meet society's expectations: are you sure you're doing the right thing? In this instance, Tommy must decide—only hours after meeting Fiona—if this new love is worth leaving behind the world he knows (and a fiancée) to spend the rest of his life in Brigadoon. Fiona, who sings in "Waitin' For My Dearie" of her commitment to hold out for the perfect man, must also decide if Tommy is the laddie she's been dreaming of. Two people, each from a different world, a different time even—how can this work out? But what is dramatic love if obstacles aren't thrown in its path?

Fortunately for this production, Costin and Siler have a lovely chemistry on stage. Both have solid, clear voices and whether singing or acting make their love come alive for the audience. The ensemble that backs them does good work, as well, staying tight and providing a harmonic background for the featured players. Kudos also to Sean O'Brien, who lends his powerful, resonant voice to the role of Charlie Dalrymple.

Costin and Thompson as Tommy and Jeff have, sadly, almost zero chemistry. Their scenes feel like something one would expect at a cold reading—clearly enunciated, but with no nuance or real feeling. There are a half dozen lines in their first scene that ought to get laughs, but land with a thud, garnering not even a chuckle from the audience.

To establish the magic of Brigadoon, director Gene Abravaya relies heavily on projections. Though the images projected—trees, houses, distant hillsides—clearly relate to the physical environment, there's so much more that could be accomplished with the technology if only Abravaya and his designers had paid more attention to alignment, scale and perspective—not to mention consistency. The first time we get a close view of Brigadoon, it looks like something from a canvas by Thomas Kinkade. Other views evoke a 3D video game world, while still other images are low-resolution, almost impressionistic. This lack of unity sadly diminishes the effectiveness of the technology.

While Brigadoon is now more than 65 years old, the supernatural aspects of the story wouldn't be out of place on network TV today. Like "Lost" or "Under The Dome," Brigadoon establishes a world where ordinary rules don't apply. But, no matter what fantastical rules you establish, it's important those rules be followed.

When the residents of Brigadoon wake up each morning, one hundred years have supposedly passed in the outside world. In Brigadoon, it's still the 18th century. Since Tommy and Jeff drop in from 20th century New York, only two days have passed in Brigadoon since the enchantment began. I'd think the residents would still be freaked out at the situation in which they so recently find themselves. After all, as self-sufficient as the people of Brigadoon may be, they can't grow all their own food or make everything they'd need to survive. In a few days, they will have to venture out into a world that will have radically changed. And why, when Tommy and Jeff ask about using a phone, would the Brigadooners even know what such a thing is?

Of course, with love, anything is possible, so I'll set aside these niggling plot complaints (which should really be directed at book writer Alan Jay Lerner) and say that, while this Brigadoon has its share of problems, if you love musical theater enough, you can probably push those aside and revel in the magic of songs such as "Almost Like Being in Love" and "Come to Me, Bend to Me" and leave the modern world behind for two and a half hours of pure escapism.

Brigadoon runs through October 27 at the Codding Theater in the Spreckels Performing Arts Center, 5409 Snyder Lane, Rohnert Park. Shows are Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. There is also a 7:30 p.m. show on Thursday, October 24. Tickets are $22-$26 and are available by calling the box office at 707-588-3400. Box office hours are 12-5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The box office is also open one hour before showtime. Additional information is available at www.spreckelsonline.com.


Photo: Eric Chazankin


Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Patrick Thomas



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