Music: Frederick Loewe
Lyrics: Alan Jay Lerner
Director: Laura Jordan Reed
Musical Director: Peter Robinson
Reviewer: Edie Ranvier
In a gust from the past, the Southern Light Opera Company and their director Laura Jordan Reed bring Brigadoon to Edinburgh’s King’s Theatre. First staged in 1947, a few decades before the likes of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Claude-Michel Schönberg revolutionised musical theatre, it hasn’t exactly aged well, though to their credit, the company do what they can with it.
The storyline follows two American tourists, who get lost in a Scottish wood and discover Brigadoon, a highland village which miraculously appears only once every hundred years, as part of a deal cut by God and the local vicar to protect the inhabitants from witches (don’t ask). Cynical Jeff (Peter Tomassi) finds it hard to believe the town is anything more than a dream, even when he accidentally bumps off one of its inhabitants. But Tommy (Eddie McDowell), unhappily engaged back in New York, gets a new lease of life when he falls for local lassie Fiona (Kat Angus), and has to choose between the world he knows and risking everything to be with his ex-temporal sweetheart.
Laura Jordan Reed and musical director Peter Robinson have done a good job with this unpromising material. All the leads are decent, and some are better than that: Eddie McDowell as Tommy Albright has a convincing US sheen and a nice voice, and while there isn’t much chemistry between him and Kat Angus, she too acts and sings well. Colin Povey as Fiona’s brother-in-law Charlie Cameron has a beautiful tenor, and his “Come to me, bend to me” is one of a few moving moments over the evening. And while Judith Barron takes a while to get into the part of Meg Brockie, she’s on good form by the second act, and sings “My Mother’s Weddin’ Day” with zest.
The production is creatively put together and looks lovely, with various rustic flats amid a canopy of frivolously green trees, and a lot of fine choreography by Janice Bruce, combining ballet and traditional Scottish dancing. The chorus takes to the dancing with aplomb, though the same can’t always be said of their singing, which is quiet and occasionally flat (as are the string section of the orchestra, though wind and brass are on good form). Still, the crowd sequences flow, and no holds are barred when it comes to accessorising them, with sword dancing, pipers and even a clarsach to liven up the wedding and funeral scenes. It’s certainly well staged.
That said, it’s hard to see why anyone would want to stage Brigadoon: qua musical, “godawful” doesn’t cover it. You could count the good tunes on the fingers of one hand (a hand that’s missing a few fingers). And good lines of dialogue are non-existent: we’re treated to such gems as “there is nothing left to do but hate everything and everybody in this cursed village”. Yes indeed.
But if you want to sling a millstone round your neck before dancing the Highland Fling, then good on yer and full marks for effort – and the cast of Brigadoon pulls off the equivalent in managing to stage a reasonably engaging production of the piece. The sow’s ear may not quite have become a tartan silk purse, but you won’t feel compelled to snatch back your ticket money from it.
Runs until 1 March 2014