Being five-eighths Scottish (as my father often reminds me) it would border on blasphemy if I didn’t like Brigadoon. Thankfully Savoyards present their latest musical with true highland spirit.
Lerner and Lowe’s Brigadoon is a wistful tale about two Americans who stumble upon a Scottish village during a hunting holiday. But we soon learn that things aren’t as they seem, for Brigadoon and its people are under an ancient spell making them appear for only one day every century. Our protagonist Tommy (Dustin White) newly and unwillingly engaged, soon falls in love with Brigadoon beauty Fiona (Sarah Punch). His companion Jeff (Gary Rose) also finds a Highland fling of a different kind in the form of the infatuated Meg (Sonja Bancroft). Meanwhile Fiona’s sister Jean (Natalie Lennox) and her beau Charlie (Jason Lawson) are due to be married, but high spirits in the village are soon dampened when Tommy and Jeff discover Brigadoon’s secret and Tommy is torn between Fiona and his American life.
The friendly, hospitable folk of Brigadoon like to sing and especially dance and boy do they dance … and dance … and dance! Thus the choreography is placed in the capable hands of Highland dancer Lynette Wockner who captures the true spirit of Scotland (with a sword dance thrown in for good measure!).
Director Ruth Gabriel has worked well with the large cast, ably weaving the mystical fairytale with the action on stage complemented by frequent song. However, lapses in and out of the difficult Scottish accents by most of the cast cause an occasional distraction and some full cast scenes appear static. But these problems were hidden by the opening night energy of the cast.
The accompanying orchestra led by musical director Jan Ashworth never misses a cue and captures the whimsical spirit of the show. On occasion the brass section appears insecure but I’m sure this will disappear as the season progresses. The singing is generally well-handled by all despite the occasional flat note. Soloists also have to watch that they are facing forward so that words aren’t lost, given the lack of individual microphones.
White plays the male lead well despite encountering some difficulties in the upper register, probably due to nerves. Punch as the principal female sings with a confidence and grace that cements her as the definite musical talent of the show; her Scottish accent is also excellent. Rose is a comedic delight and stands out as the laconic and slightly drunk Jeff. He is matched by Bancroft who plays the not-so-virtuous Meg with an enthusiasm equalled only by her singing. Lawson and Lennox play the young lovers confidently. The real star of the show though is the chorus who consistently and confidently fill the auditorium with soaring warm textured harmonies the tight choral work is definitely something of which Savoyards should be proud.
The technical aspect of the show is well handled, with colourful sets put to good use and lighting and stage effects to suit. Costuming is well done, with the bonnie lads and lasses donning more tartan than you can poke a thistle at.
Frankly I wouldn’t have envisioned a Scottish-based musical actually working until I saw what Savoyards had to offer. The bagpipes wail, the jigs are numerous and the kilts are abundant even the other three-eighths of me couldn’t help but take a liking to this jovial romp in the Scottish highlands.