To get into the spirit of Brigadoon you must be prepared to embrace a little magic of the past that contrasts with the glitzy superficiality of the present. But just as so many people across the world embraced the Harry Potter phenomenon which also required you to let go of reality, accepting the premise of Brigadoon shouldn’t be too much of a stretch.
The Production Company’s Brigadoon is an updated version of the original 1947 Broadway musical, in which two modern-day American backpackers, Tommy (Rohan Browne) and Jeff (Luke Joslin) find themselves in the mist of the Scottish Highlands, stumbling upon a 17th century village that doesn’t appear on any map or GPS. And this is where the updating occurs – our heroes whip out their smart phones to try to work out where they are, but their enquiry to the villagers about whether there is any Wi-Fi elicits a puzzled stare.
But Tommy and Jeff are up for new experiences and decide to embrace the vibrant community that is Brigadoon, even accepting the alternative reality that Brigadoon is caught in the 17th century and only appears to modern day folk every hundred years for one day, although those who truly love may be able to find it again if they plight their troth to a Brigadoon lassie.
Tommy is soon enraptured by the lively and lovely Fiona (Genevieve Kingsford), whose sister Jean (Stefanie Jones) is marrying her sweetheart Charlie (Matthew Manahan). Providing the comic relief and bundles of energy is good time girl Meg (Elise McCann, familiar to audiences as demure Miss Honey in Matilda!).
But all is not sweetness and light, as lovelorn Harry Beaton can’t stand to see the object of his passion, Jean, married, and this provides the dramatic tragedy mid-show that causes the audience to fall silent.
Despite this, by the final curtain things have been put to rights, and Tommy realises where his heart and his future lie.
Initially, the contrast between feudal Scotland and high tech New Yorkers was a challenge for me, but as the show settled it soon won me over, and I cottoned onto what the creators were trying to do, in showing us that real values and happiness may lie in quite a different sphere from what we might imagine.
Director Jason Langley and his creative team have done a wonderful job in creating a show that is lively, colourful and never drops its pace. The big ensemble musical numbers are exciting to see and hear, and I was especially impressed by the use of projections and excellent lighting design from set designer Christina Smith and lighting designer Matt Scott – between them they take us effortlessly to the remote Scottish village and then to the harsh glitz of New York. Creating a believable mood without the need for lavish sets is something The Production Company excels at.
For me, the undoubted star of the show is Genevieve Kingsford as Fiona. After time away working in England she gave a knockout performance in last year’s The Light in the Piazza, but her charismatic Fiona and superb singing will showcase her to thousands of people during the run of Brigadoon.
Veteran Nancye Hayes is simply delightful as the wise seer Mrs Forsyth, and Elise McCann has a ball as lusty village charmer Meg, surely cousin to Oklahoma’s Ado Annie?
Triple threat Rohan Browne is a pleasure to watch, and there is excellent chemistry between him his Tommy and Kingsford’s Fiona – the magical ending looks quite believable because of the strength of this relationship.
Musical director Michael Tyack conducts the usual tight and talented orchestra, squeezed onto the stage behind the performers.
All the principal roles were well-cast and executed, and young Joel Granger as rejected suitor Harry gave a fine account of himself.
The ensemble works incredibly hard and there are certainly no passengers in this production- they successful create the world of rural Scottish village life before our eyes. Full marks to director Langley and choreographer Cameron Mitchell.
My only minor quibbles are that the sound was over-amplified in the first few minutes, but that was soon rectified. And Isaac Lumis’s costumes work very well, but I did find the 21st century topknot on a member of the male ensemble extremely distracting, and wished they could have given him a cap. It just grated in the midst of the feudal Scottish folk of which he was meant to be one.
But overall, this is a production to charm and it was a thrill to see a show that is rarely done, especially as this Brigadoon is done so well.