Brigadoon may not be the best show in the world, but Artisan’s production is solid.
Brigadoon is one of those classic musicals from the “Golden Age”. Made even more famous by a movie version a few years after the success of the Broadway run, there’s a few standards that are still used in auditions.
For a Gen Xer, the show may seem a bit dated and stale, and for good reason. The story is pretty cookie cutter: there’s the lead guy and his sidekick, they meet two girls, complication, resolution. Was there any doubt how it would end? Still, as someone who loves a good musical, cheese or no, the getting there is the fun part. Give me some good story telling, punctuated with some lovely singing, a creative dance break, and I’ll easily overlook a stale book and go along for the ride. For folks that don’t like musicals, the gratuitous dance breaks, and the pretty songs that don’t advance the plot; it could drive you nuts.
I’m not a huge fan of Brigadoon in particular, the show has lots of challenges, especially for a space like Artisan that stages in the round. There are numerous locations, making it a set intense show in a place where you can’t have walls. There’s lots of dance, which requires space. Fortunately, these potential problems are solved by an inventive design by Jason Leyva and John Wilkerson. The basic set is a group of rocks that are shifted between scenes, with a few corner spaces that get redressed during the show. In addition, the entire wall space behind the audience is covered in beautiful murals by Michelle McElree and Lilly Strapp. This solves what could be a technical nightmare as far as far as sightlines and shift time, and the shifts go smoothly, without interrupting the flow of the show.
In addition, Leyva’s lighting design also dresses the space nicely, providing enough fantasy and reality where needed, in the appropriate places.
Jason Walker’s sound design does well, keeping voices clear and louder than the tracked music used during the production. Several mics suspended from the grid pick up anyone without a body mike effectively. I was curious though why a pre-recorded bit of chorus music was used at then end of the show.
Nita Cadenhead’s costumes provide a clear picture of the appropriate attire for the village, complete with family plaids. The “modern” clothes are also nice and give us some colors otherwise not seen. There do seem to be though some various socks masquerading as period amongst the Brigadoon gentleman.
As far as the performances, Director John Wilkerson has assembled a cast of leads that all deliver a solid level of consistent performance. His pacing of the show is good, and it never drags. The blocking is effective, especially keeping the chorus (and everyone else) out of sightlines during large group scenes. There are times in the large scenes where everyone stops what they are doing to eavesdrop on conversations. But in some places within the show there could have been more ensemble/crowd ad-libs to fill the silence, or enthusiastic cheering, like during a dance, where the energy from the ensemble was needed.
Playing the Americans that stumble into the mythical town of Brigadoon that appears only once every 100 years are Timm Zitz and Brad Stephens, as Tommy Albright and Jeff Douglas, respectively. Stereotypical American tourists, I thought they were too much like each other in character, until the show progressed and I saw how Zitz creates a nice arc for his romantic Tommy, while Jeff remains the cynic. The guys are sharp, and as unbelievable as the plot is, manage to bring a certain grounded reality to the show.
The bonnie lasses that are paired off with the guys, for sincere love, or comedy are Collen Hall as Fiona MacLaren, and Jenny Tucker as Meg Brockie. Both ladies sing well. Hall gets the leading lady ballads, which she delivers nicely in “Waitin’ For My Dearie” while Meg has the comedic and spirited “My Mother’s Weddin’ Day” that brings a lot of energy to Act II.
Charlie Dalrymple is brought to life by Brian Sears, who nails the Irish Ballad that starts the best sequence of Act I (scene five). His voice navigates the upper notes of the song comfortably, and made folks sit up in “Come to Me, Bend to Me”.
This is followed up by the first of several poetic dance sequences by Eddie Floresca. Bonnie Jean’s dance is executed by Victoria Minton with beauty, subtlety, and honest reactions.
We then move into the conditional ballad “Almost Like Being in Love” sung by Fiona (Hall) and Tommy (Zitz), which continues the magic that has just been created.
Zach Wooster has the thankless role of Harry, the “villain” of the piece, who provides the only conflict or tension in the plot. He broods appropriately, and has a nice dance solo at the start of the Sword Dance.
Kristin DiFrancesco also delivers a delightful mourners dance in Act II.
Evan Faris, as Mr. Lundie provides a stable character even though he only has two brief scenes.
Brigadoon may not be the best show in the world, but Artisan’s production is solid. If you’re looking to see a classic that likely won’t be done again anytime soon, there are only a few weeks left to catch it. This multiple COLUMN award winning theater runs this show through April 10.
Book and Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, Music by Frederick Loewe
Through April 10, 2010
Artisan Center Theater
Theater is located in the old historic Belaire Plaza at 420 East Pipeline Road, Husrt, TX 76053. The daytime box office is located at same address.
Performances are at 7:30pm on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday with 3 pm matinees on Saturdays. Reserved seating tickets are $16.00 for adults, $14.00 for students and seniors, and $9.00 for children 12 and under. Monday through Thursday tixs are $12.00. Box office number: 817-284-1200. More info: www.ArtisanCT.com