Monday, March 31, 2008


Bagpiper Elizabeth Shull greeted patrons arriving at the Woodland Opera House, playing “Scotland the Brave,” and setting the stage for the trip back to 18th century Scotland before anyone even entered the theater.

The Lerner & Loewe classic, “Brigadoon,” directed by Chesley award winner Bob Cooner, opened for a five-week run and, despite a disruptive toddler running back and forth, talking, and crying in the balcony at Sunday's matinee performance, the production was, in most areas, a success.

Brigadoon is the story of two disgruntled Americans lost in the Scottish highlands, who discover a strange village, learn of its miracle and discover the power of love.

Scott Reese (as Tommy Albright) and Michael Lie Murphy (as Jeff Douglas) are a bit stiff on stage, especially early in the show, but Reese has a wonderful voice and does justice to the role of the young man searching for meaning in his life.

Gina Marchitiello, as Fiona MacLaren, however, is absolutely marvelous as the sister of bride-to-be Jean (Laura Franklin), and a woman who is still “waiting for her dearie” and wondering if she will ever find love. Marchitiello has a beautiful, strong voice and brings a yearning wistfulness to her character. She alone is worth the price of admission.

The opening choral number, beautifully sung, was sung mostly in the dark. If this was by design, it was not a good one. Too many of the townsfolk who only have a brief moment for solo lines were unable to be seen at all. One hopes it was a lighting error at this performance.

As Tommy and Jeff try to figure out what sort of town they have stumbled upon, they meet many of the townsfolk, including Meg Brockie (Marcy Goodnow), a lusty, boisterous lass who quickly gloms onto Jeff and drags him off to her shack where, presumably, some hanky panky eventually takes place. Goodnow gives the role all the gusto that it requires and is great fun to watch in action.

Archie Beaton (Mark Fejta) is the town tailor whose son Harry (Justin Kelley) is in love with Jean and angry about her upcoming marriage to Charlie Dalrymple (Tim Dunlap). Kelley is dark and brooding and dances a mean sword dance, along with Kevin Little, Jon Shaffer and Shane Wright.

Dunlap is a likable Charlie, with a good voice and good chemistry with his bride-to-be, Jean. Laura Franklin is a wonderful dancer, and a less wonderful actress, but the role of Jean requires more dancing than acting, so it works well for her. Her wedding ballet was beautiful.

Jeff Nauer is Andrew MacLaren, father of Jean and Fiona who displays a strong voice in the chase scene, where all the men of the town chase after Harry, who has decided to leave Brigadoon, bringing an end to “the miracle.” (Sadly, the role of Angus is not listed in the program and so I don't know who sang that role, but he had a wonderful voice.)

(Traditionally, there is a funeral scene following Harry's death, and I assumed the bagpiper would be joining the group on stage, but the funeral procession was dropped in this production.)

Jim Lane is just wonderful as the wise Mr. Lundie, the man who holds the secret of “the miracle” (and check those genuine muttonchops!)

This is such a good looking production (scenic design by Jeff Kean) and such care is taken with the Scottish accents, and the sword dance that it is appalling that no consideration whatsoever was taken to make the costumes authentic. As a person of Scottish descent, I know that the plaid of a tartan indicates the clan to which a person belongs. To see the three MacLarens, for example, standing side by side, each wearing vastly different tartans was jarring and it was even more jarring during the parade of the clans at the start of Act 2, when there was no cohesiveness whatsoever. There are even mis-matched tartans, one design at the top of a dress, another for the skirt. Laurie Everly Klassen is too good a designer to make such an egregious error.

Music for this production is provided by pianists Sam Schieber and Chris Schlagel, who are so good one does not notice the lack of a full orchestra.

This is a production with some problems, but the good far outweighs the bad and should provide an entertaining couple of hours for anybody who comes to see it. (Please leave your small children at home!)

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