by Beki Pineda
BRIGADOON – Book and Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner; Music by Fredrick Loewe; Directed by Timothy Kennedy. Produced by Loveland Opera Theatre (presented at the Rialto Theatre, 228 East 4th St, Loveland) through October 23. Tickets available at 970-962-2120 or rialtotheatercenter.org.
The Loveland Opera Theatre brings a gorgeous Scottish folk tale to life with enthusiasm and gusto. The cast of 34 filled the stage with music and motion. These are people who take their music seriously. The blending of voices in the chorale selections was breathtaking. It was easy to imagine the singers back stage tearing up when they shared the joy of blending their voices together for the opening and closing strains of the Brigadoon theme.
For those unfamiliar with the plot (how have you managed to live this long and not see the classic Gene Kelly/Cyd Charisse movie?), two vacationers from New York get lost in a Scottish forest just as an ancient village wakes up from its 100 year old spell. A wedding is to happen and the foreigners are invited to stay. Of course, one of the men (Tommy played by Nathan Snyder) is deeply attracted to the sister of the bride, Fiona (Bella Mallow). His companion Jeff (Solomon Abell) is pursued by a randy village girl Meg, played with vixenish charm by Emily Morris. They find it hard to believe what they have wandered into and, at days end, difficult decisions must be made.
This is probably Lerner and Loewe’s most lush, most hummable score. “Almost Like Being in Love” and “There But for You Go I” became popular songs covered by several prominent singers. But I defy you to forget the rousing “I’ll Go Home With Bonnie Jean” and the haunting Entrance of the Clans complete with a bagpiper leading the way with traditional melodies.
As mentioned before, the voices in this production are what you would expect from an opera company. The bridegroom Charlie as sung by Seth Riley took your breath away as he sang “Come to Me, Bend to Me” to his bride. Nathan as Tommy got to show off his powerful voice in “The Heather on the Hill” and “There But For You Go I.” The women fared well as well with several ensemble numbers that showed their individual and collective strengths. Robert Hoch did a nice job as the Village Elder tasked with telling the miraculous story of Brigadoon. In a small but important role, Helene Luna played Maggie, a woman in love with the village hot head. There was not a dry eye in the house as she expressed her grief through a dirge dance at his loss.
Alway happy to praise the good, I feel obligated to suggest a couple of small things that could have improved the overall experience. Some of the female singers needed to concentrate on the diction of the songs assigned them. While it was always easy to understand everyone’s intent and emotions, it wasn’t always easy to understand their words. Being an opera company, you expect big voices. Performing in a mid-sized theatre, it would have been more pleasant in some cases to let some of the singers give up their microphones. A light pruning of the cast – perhaps down to about 25-27 – would have allowed for the creation of more pleasing stage pictures instead of watching people try to fit into a small space on stage.
Choreographer Rachael Lessard did a great job of creating a mix of soft ballet, traditional Scottish folk dances (including an impressive Sword Dance) and strathspey movements. This added greatly to the gentle mood of the happy day they were celebrating. The costumes designed and constructed by Davis Sibley and Deb McPhee helped delineate the various clans and family members and added to the beauty of the dances. Peter Muller made the day and evening lovely with his subtle lighting design. They also created terrific “mist” scenes.
This is a relatively young company – in terms of joint experience and in age of players. Although it was touching to see the diversity in age, from youngster to oldster, in the ensemble. The administrative team has ambitious plans for the group that will bring the joy of music to a large part of the Front Range when they get things underway. Keep your eye on this group; they are going places.
A WOW factor of 8.5!!