REVIEW — Guests arriving Saturday evening at the St. George Opera House for St. George Musical Theater’s presentation of “Brigadoon” were greeted with the sounds of a bagpipe, its music reaching into the parking areas and beyond. It was a fitting way to set the scene for the classic romantic musical which takes place in a fictional Scottish village.
Brigadoon hails from what director Norm Lister called the “golden age” of Broadway. It opened in 1947 on Broadway and played for over 500 shows.
The popular musical also had a large run in London’s West End as well as a movie version starring Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse.
With such a stigma of classicism behind the production, the bar was set pretty high for St. George Musical Theater’s version. It is a bar that was set high by the director himself.
In the production’s playbill Lister said:
What does one say about a musical that has been a constant through ones entire artistic life? It was given life on Broadway in the same year I was. I first became aware of it in 1964 when as a 17 year old high school junior I first encountered the show by playing the role of Tommy Albright and experienced my first grown-up kiss on stage.
Three other productions have followed since then. The last one being in the final year of a 35 year career in music education. I was music director and played the role of Andrew MacLaren in that one. Now St. George Musical Theater has given me one more chance to really get it right in this production and it’s been as big a challenge as ever.
Brigadoon is a true Broadway musical in every sense of the word. It requires some serious acting, singing and dancing chops. Fortunately for St. George Musical Theater, they found a strong and capable cast.
There are two casts for the production in which the actress playing the role of Fiona MacLaren alternates on different nights. I saw the green cast with Melissa Ricks Humphries as Fiona.
Some of the ensemble cast alternates as well.
Humphries has a gorgeous singing voice, especially in the high soprano range and she portrayed the love interest with an innocence and ease that kept my eyes glued to her whenever she was on stage.
Brigadoon is the story of two American tourists — Tommy Albright played by Kyle Flowers and Jeff Douglas played by Trey Patterson — who get lost in Scotland and somehow find their way to a mysterious village shrouded in mist. It is obvious to the two men that something is amiss in Brigadoon but they soon find themselves caught up in the frenzy of a town wedding and the peculiar yet affable people in the village.
This is especially true for Tommy Albright who becomes romantically entangled with Fiona.
Flowers plays Tommy quite deftly and the romance between the pair seems natural if not a little rushed.
Look for the two to really shine when they sing the production’s most well-known song “Almost Like Being in Love.”
Timing is the crux of the plot as Brigadoon’s mystery is revealed. I won’t spoil it for those who have never seen it but the two lovers don’t have much time to make potentially life-altering decisions. The true question of the show is whether romance or reality will triumph.
Though the show is a romance at heart there are also some brilliant comedic moments. In the role of Jeff Douglas, Patterson fills the stage with his persona. I have seen Patterson perform with the improvisational comedy troupe, Improv Dixie, and he is a truly gifted performer. His comedic genius comes through in his characterization of Albright’s drunken yet seemingly more sensible friend.
For my money however, the night belonged to Anne Falster — another Improv Dixie player and St. George Musical Theater regular. Falster plays the role of Meg Brockie, a woman with a reputation for having a penchant for, well, men. Falster’s portrayal of Meg is eager, hilarious and slightly bawdy but never crass.
Having previously seen Falster in “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” I can unequivocally say she is one of my favorite community theater actors and a true gem in Southern Utah.
The leads are supported by a strong cast of singers and dancers and the large ensemble fills the small Opera House stage with vibrant personalities.
If you have never seen theater in-the-round the way St. George Musical Theater does it, it can be a bit of a change. The cast gets up close and personal with the audience almost to the point that you feel you are in the show rather than watching it. For a production like Brigadoon where the audience is meant to suspend belief and journey to a magical, mysterious land, the small, intimate stage works well.
My friend and companion for the evening remarked that she was pleasantly surprised that she didn’t feel the awkwardness that she has sometimes felt from other small community theaters.
Saturday’s production was only the third night for the cast and there were a couple miscues and awkward pauses but most of those will likely work themselves out as the cast’s nerves calm.
My biggest complaint of the evening was that the group sitting in front of me were talking loudly and often during the entire production. I understand people getting excited or wanting to clarify parts of the show, and Brigadoon for all its appeal can be confusing, but it is impolite to both the production and the audience to be so distracting.
A small note to parents wishing to bring their children, the production does say the words “sex” and “hell” and it features the death of one of the characters. I would be OK with bringing my two older children (ages 8 and 10) but I would leave my 5 year old at home.
Overall Brigadoon is a wonderfully romantic romp and Lister should be proud of his direction, both for paying tribute to a true classic and for providing a way for a new generation to appreciate its charm.
- What: St. George Musical Theater’s “Brigadoon.”
- When: Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays, 7:30 p.m.
- Where: St. George Opera House, 212 N. Main St., St. George.
- Cost: $17-$21.
- Purchase tickets: Online, by phone at 866-967-8167 or at the box office on the night of the performance.
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