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C’MON GET HAPPY

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An 18th-century Scottish village that only appears once every hundred years and thus remains untouched by worldly evil certainly defies the laws of physics.

It doesn’t even make much sense magically speaking. What happens during those 364 days of non-appearance? What ensures that everyone goes to sleep and wakes up at the same time? And how does this long rest period keep the citizenry from all those human failings to which we are so prone?

But this imaginary village of Brigadoon nevertheless functions very well as the basis of the eponymous musical by Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner.

"Brigadoon" opened at Broadway’s Ziegfeld Theatre on March 13, 1947, ran for 581 performances and won the Drama Critics’ Award for best musical. It has been revived six times at the New York City Center and once at the Majestic Theatre in 1980.

This month, the Heights Players at 26 Willow Place and State Street in Brooklyn Heights are bringing the tiny village to life in Brooklyn, and its charming citizenry once again delights and enchants.

Thomas N. Tyler ("La Cage Aux Folles," "Miracle on 34th Street") directs a huge cast of actors, singers and dancers, supported by the choreography of James Martinelli and Gina Wolff, and the musical direction of Ray Jordan.

Substantial credit also must be given to Bill Wood for his reproduction of the lush forest setting, and costumer Albert Walsh, for dressing his buxom maidens in all those skirts and bodices, frocks and petticoats, and for accumulating the most kilts ever seen outside the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

When "Brigadoon" opened on Broadway, World War II had been over for two years, and Americans were eager to forget their troubles and imagine a better world. "Brigadoon" filled that need then as it certainly does today.

The play opens with two hunters, Tommy Albright (Fabio Taliercio) and Jeff Douglas (Ed Healy), accidentally stumbling into this sleepy little hamlet populated by fair maidens, hearty swains and wise elders. Jeff is aggressively pursued by Meg Brockie (Gina Wolff), and Tommy falls in love with the fair and lovely Fiona MacLaren (Tina Throckmorton).

This incredible village with its gentle mists, blue skies and green valleys, seems almost too good to be real to Tommy. And when he finds out the truth, he just about decides to chuck his girlfriend, his job and everything else back home to spend the rest of his life with Fiona in Brigadoon. Then, the untimely death of one Brigadoonite convinces him he’d better go home.

Fiona, of course, is heartbroken. But she shouldn’t be. This is "Brigadoon," not "West Side Story," and everyone knows his renunciation won’t last for long.

Thin in plot, dialogue and characterization, with only a few memorable melodies, most notably the lyrical love songs "Almost Like Being in Love," "Come to Me, Bend to Me," "The Heather on the Hill," the ensemble piece "Brigadoon" and Gina Wolff’s raunchy masterpiece "My Mother’s Wedding Day," the show’s biggest attraction is its dance numbers - "Come to Me Dance," "Country Dance" and "Weddin’ Dance."

The original Broadway production was choreographed by Agnes de Mille, who won a Tony Award for her work. The 1954 MGM movie starred dancers Cyd Charisse as Fiona and Gene Kelly as Tommy. And the late 1960s television special featured ballet dancer Edward Vilella as Harry Beaton, the scorned suitor whose death ends Tommy and Jeff’s stay in "Brigadoon."

In the Heights Players’ production, Wolff and Martinelli have created some colorful dance numbers that show off the artists’ abilities without straining their capabilities. They’re also careful to integrate the dances into the general flow of the story so they enhance rather than disrupt.

"Brigadoon" also features some really fine voices - Throckmorton’s powerful soprano and Taliercio’s rich tenor. Add to that Healy’s devil-may-care humor that works so well with the devilish Wolff, and "Brigadoon" is a don’t-miss hit.

Fortunately, the play, unlike the village, will be around for more than one day this year.

 

The Heights Players production of "Brigadoon" plays through May 19, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 2 pm at 26 Willow Place at State Street in Brooklyn Heights. Tickets are $15, $13 students and seniors. For reservations, call (718) 237-2752.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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