Book & Lyrics by Alan J. Lerner
Music by Frederick Loewe

INFO:

Opened at the Ziegfeld Theatre    March 13, 1947    581 performances (often revived, but not since the early 1990s)
Original Director: Robert Lewis
Original Choreographer: Agnes De Mille
Original Producer: Cheryl Crawford
Original Leads: Tommy: David Burke   Fiona: Marion Bell
Cast Size: Male: 6    Female: 4    Ensemble: 12 or more    Total Cast Size: 22 or more.
Orchestra: 31 pit band, with a 19 player version (with strings). The smaller version is actually likely to be better for the show. Could be done with maybe 10: Piano, synth (for bagpipes, woodwinds and other), percussion, base, 2 violins, viola, cello, trumpet, trombone.
Published Script: Chilton
Production Rights: Tams Witmark
Recordings: Lots of recordings, at least 8.  The 1991 studio recording is one of the most complete of the score.
Film: With Gene Kelly and Cyd Charrise, directed by Vincente Minneli. It’s decent but lacks the energy of the stage version. Worth a look. A 1966 TV version was done as well, starring Robert Goulet (fresh from his great success with Camelot) and Peter Falk.
Other shows by the authors: Paint Your Wagon, My Fair Lady, Camelot , Gigi    Lerner: Love Life, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever

WHO SHOULD DO THIS SHOW:

A fun and lovely show, with a sweet and memorable score. Romantic but fanciful, it is one of the rare Musicals that use fantasy as the core of its story-telling. A fine choice for High Schools (if you have some real dancers), Dinner Theatres, some Colleges and Universities. Probably worn out its welcome in more professional arenas, but it is a charming show with some good laughs, and is not overly dated as to subject matter. Not too hard a show to tackle if you keep sets and costumes simple.

Be Warned:

It’s a pretty large show. Brigadoon was once a staple for High Schools and colleges, and even Little Theaters, but its day has likely passed it by. Audiences today want their stories to move with more force, generally. This is a relatively gentle and whimsical show, and its overall mood may not well suit our time.

But thee is a fair amount of sexual hijinks implied (never seen) in the piece. If that offends, why are you doing a Musical? Seriously, pick another more virginal show. Lerner never backs down in his shows from extramarital activity.

THE STORY:

ACT ONE: We hear the Chorus introduce us to the start of the fantasy. Two weary hunters, Americans, have lost their way in the Scottish Highlands. (“Once In The Highlands”) Tommy and Jeff, each about 30, make their way through the thick forest. They are good and lost. Jeff, as usual, decides to get drunk. Tommy admires Jeff’s easy acceptance of life, he is unhappy with his own though engaged to a fine woman and successful. Then the two men hear humming in the forest. (“Brigadoon”) And they see a village in the middle of nowhere, one not on the maps.

In Brigadoon, the village. The people are dressed in traditional Scottish clothing for hundreds of years ago. The townspeople meet “Down On MacConnachy Square”, their market place. But the things they sell, their clothes, their language is distinctly antiquated. Sisters Fiona and Jean join the festivities, with their father, Andrew. Fiona is sweet and frank, Jean younger and shy, both are lovely. Fiona needs to buy a waistcoat for her father, as there’s to be a wedding between Jean and young Charlie Dalrymple. Harry Beaton, a young man working for his father selling woolens, would rather it had been him, and is in a dark mood. Fiona gets milk from Meg Brockie, a winsome young gal with too much of an eye for the boys. Fiona hasn’t met a boy she found interesting, yet. She informs Meg she is “Waitin’ For My Dearie”.

And then Tommy enters Brigadoon, with Jeff. They speak to Archie Beaton, Harry’s father, and ask why Brigadoon isn’t on the map. The man feels they are bizarre, and informs them it’s not on the map for good reason. When the men announce they’re Americans, Meg gets interested. Jeff wants to beat a hasty retreat from this strange town. But Fiona apologizes for the her fellow townspeople’s behavior. (Tommy points out they’re all staring at the boys as if they’re from another world.) Fiona offers them her home to rest in before they head out, and Tommy and she make a connection. Meg tries to connect with Jeff, and leads him to Fiona’s place. Tommy wants to phone the Inn so no one will worry about them. Fiona has never heard of a “phone.”

Charlie Dalrymple enters, and it’s his wedding day. He mentions he’s grateful to Mr Forsythe for “postponing the miracle”, and Fiona shushes him. Fiona leads Tommy out, as she has purchases to make, as Charlie celebrates this day, when he will “Go Home With Bonnie Jean”, and the townsfolk join him in celebration.

Fiona and Tommy return, and Charlie invites Tommy to the wedding supper. He doesn’t plan to be in Brigadoon that long. Tommy’s impressed with how enthused Charlie is about getting married. Fiona remarks that it’s common, but Tommy doesn’t think so, not in the modern world. Tommy let’s her know he’s supposed to get married next month. He asks her what Charlie meant by a miracle being postponed. He mentions they all seem a bit insane,. Which angers Fiona. But she admits that she likes Tommy…very much. He asks if he stayed, would she escort him to the wedding that night. They quickly fall for each other. But she must collect heather for the wedding. Tommy invites himself to go with her to collect “The Heather On The Hill”.

In the Brockie shed. It is past noon, now. Jeff looks out over the glen below. He wants a rest, and she marvels, him being so young and all. He says he feels old and decrepit, in his best world-weary self-deprecating manner. He reclines and starts to nod off, but she doesn’t leave. She admires his manly physique. (He doesn’t really need to have one, she just likes men.) Meg admits she’s highly attracted to Jeff, and he shoos her away. That’s what all the men do. She lets him know that there have been many men, each “The Love Of My Life”, each one vanishing when things get serious. He’s asleep by the end of the number. She sits in a chair, smiling at him and waiting.

The MacLaren house, simple and of its time. It’s mid-afternoon, and “Jeannie’s Packin’ Up” tpo move in with her husband-to-be. Charlie shows up, but Mr. MacLaren wants him to leave – it’s bad luck seeing the bride before the wedding. Harry Beaton shows up with Mr. MacLaren’s new waistcoat. MacLaren offers the young man his hand, but Harry walks away. He announces that everyone in the town is his enemy. He’s had no life, and he blames them all, and he leaves. Jean wants to come out, but Charlie is still present. Charlie leaves, but outside the house, calls to Jean through her window, to “Come To Me, Bend To Me”, longing to make love with her. He departs.

Fiona joins Jean to help prepare her, and apologizes for being gone so long. It’s clear Fiona is in love. Jeff shows up and greets Tommy. Both men feel great. In fact, Tommy has a feeling that is “Almost Like Being In Love” that he shares with Fiona. Jeff watches displeased. Tommy happens top look at the signatures in the family Bible, which everyone is signing for the wedding. It says there that Fiona was born in 1722. Jean, in 1728. Jeff is sure the two sisters were named for ancestors. But Charlie just signed for his marriage, and it says the wedding date is in 1746. No Brigadoon on the map, no phones…Both men start to wonder. (They’re a bit slow.) Tommy confronts Fiona, and she says he must speak to the local schoolmaster to get the truth.

Fiona, Tommy and Jeff meet Mr. Lundee at his house. They learn from the strange elder that Mr. Forsythe, “the kindest man in Scotland”, decided to protect the people of the town he loved so much from witches, and other evils such as aging. He thought long and hard on how to do it, and once he’d made up his mind, prayed for a miracle. He prayed that Brigadoon and all its people would vanish, to return for one day every hundred years. The people would live their normal lives, but at a rate of a day each hundred years. And this is one of those days. But no one of the town can leave it. That would break the enchantment. And a stranger can stay if he loves someone ion Brigadoon enough to give up everything else in life. Because “if ye love someone deeply, anythin’ is possible.”

Outside the kirk of Brigadoon, The wedding. Lundee acts as the Minister of sorts, and Jean and Charlie make their vows. The wedding is short, and a wild dance starts in celebration. But Harry enters with two swords, a challenge to Charlie, and Harry performs a sword dance and suddenly grabs Jean and kisses her violently. Harry starts to fight with Charlie, but Tommy disarms the man. Harry runs off, away from Brigadoon, intending to end the miracle. Everyone, including Tommy, pursues him.

ACT TWO: The forest at the border of Brigadoon. The sun has set. Harry run s, unsure which way to go. The others sing and chase him. He is found by several; men, and the next we know, Harry’s dead body is dragged into the open, seemingly from a fall.

Near the town, Fiona swears she heard a cry in the forest. Her father tells her everyone is fine, and it’s no time to be grieving. The wedding should be celebrated. Archie wants to see his son, if everyone is okay. Tommy joins Fiona…he couldn’t go. He’s in love with her, and he doesn’t want to end up with out her. (“There But For You Go I”)

The glen, moments later. The celebration, which Meg takes over with a song about “My Mother’s Weddin’ Day”. Jeff encounters Tommy, who says he’s not going back to New York. Jess is shocked, he thinks it’s a joke. He thinks Tommy is drunk with infatuation and the Highlands. It must all be a dream. And jeff admits that it was he who killed Harry Beaton – it was an accident, but he really does not care because this is all a dream, and there are no consequences. Tommy experiences doubt, and Jeff says he’ll wait for him outside of town. Tommy speaks to Fiona, tells her he loves her, but he doesn’t trust what he’s feeling. They will always love each other, “From This Day On”, but they can’t be together. The lights dim as Tommy departs, and when they rise, Fiona and Brigadoon are gone.

A bar in NYC, four months later. Jeff drinks himself stiff. Tommy’s finace is due to join show up at the bar, looking for Tommy who has vanished. Tommy tells the informative bartender that Tommy quit his job a month ago and vanished. That’s when Tommy enters the bar. He’s been on a farm in New Hampshire. He tells Jeff he can’t marry Miss Ashton (his fiance) because he’s in love with someone else. Jane Ashton joins them. Jeff leaves them to talk. Alone with him, Jane asks Tommy where he’s been, why he never wrote. But Tommy is not listening. He’s dreaming of a vanished village in the Scottish Highlands. Jane has been making plans for them, but he doesn’t hear anything she says. Instead, he sees Fiona singing to him about the heather on the hill. He finally tells Jane he can’t marry her. She thinks he gone nuts, but again, he’s surrounded by the people of Brigadoon in his mind.

Three nights later, Tommy is in the forest outside Brigadoon, and Jeff is with him. He feels he can never reach Fiona, never be with her. Time stands between them. But to Tommy, she seems alive and real. And then they hear singing, “Brigadoon (reprise)” Mr. Lundee appears sleepily, to lead Tommy to Brigadoon, reminding him that with love, anything is possible. Jeff stands, bewildered, as Tommy and Lundee vanish.

THE SONGS:

“Once In The Highlands”, “Brigadoon”, “Down On MacConnachy Square”, “Waitin’ For My Dearie”, “I’ll Go Home With Bonnie Jean”, “The Heather On The Hill”, “The Love Of My Life”, “Jeannie’s Packin’ Up”, “Come To Me, Bend To Me”, “Almost Like Being In Love”, “There But For You Go I”, “My Mother’s Weddin’ Day”, “From This Day On”

Hits include “Almost Like Being In Love”, “The Heather On The Hill”

MY OPINIONS:

You can elect to ignore or skip my opinion and rating, of course.  Then again, without them, you may be able to get this show right one day every hundred years…

Alan Jay Lerner is my pick for best lyricist ever, for a number of reasons. He understands better than most how to integrate a lyric ion with the book, since he always authors the book, as well. His lyrics are romantic when they need to be, clever when needed, and genuinely funny when needed. He can structure a joke into a lyric with far greater dexterity and grace than almost any other lyricist.

All that said, Brigadoon was a throwback in many ways, even in its own day, to operetta. It’s all about singing and dancing Euro villagers, an unfortunate staple of operetta. This element dates Brigadoon more than any other. The music, too, has an operetta touch to it that may push away modern audiences. But the songs are memorable, some of them hits, and a few are very funny.

There is a lot in this tale that is borrowed from Lost Horizon, one of my favorite novels. In fact, this is really much the same tale in many regards, placed in the Highlands of Scotland instead of the lost Valley of the Blue Moon,, in the Himalayas. I don’t think Brigadoon scores many points for originality. But the script is filled with snappy, clever dialogue, and beautiful songs adorn the story at every turn. (Though I hate townsfolky and operetta-ish numbers like “Down On MacConnachy Square”, and really wish it wasn’t in the show, Lerner did land a few laugh lines in it.)

What’s more, there is some confusion as to whether the miracle is a miracle from God, or an enchantment. Either way, the town appears for one day every 100 years, and there you have it.

I like this show overall, though I find the romantic element pushed, strained a bit, and a little cloying, which is not Lerner’s normal approach to love in a Musical. If anything, he has an aloof, nearly cynical, clever view of how love should be portrayed, and Brigadoon acts as the slightly overly-romantic exception to the rule. The “love conquers all” theme is such a staple of Musical Comedy, it can quickly and easily become overstated, and in this show, I fear it is. It isn’t horrible or embarrassing, it just isn’t quite clever enough. And the scene near the end when Tommy can’t really hear Jane, his finace, talking to him because he’s surrounded by Fiona and Brigadoon memories, is a tad silly, and even mean-spirited. After all, Jane has waited to see him for months.

This is a good show. It can be exciting to watch, beautiful to listen to. The leading roles are okay, if a bit one-dimensional. You’ll need interesting actors to flesh out Tommy and Fiona, as they could get cardboard. Jeff and Meg have more fire and independence, and are innately more interesting. But we are intended to root for Tommy and Fiona, and I think that today, that may take some work.

MY RATING: * (A better-than-average and interesting show, right for many groups.)

 

PRODUCTION CONCERNS AND IDEAS:

DIFFICULTY OF MUSIC:

The music isn’t hard to learn, or teach, but can be a workout to play. Loewe likes interesting chromatic clusters and off turns occasionally, and they make the score a bit of a challenge. It’s all for the best, as he composed a fine and memorable score with lovely love songs, sprightly character comedy numbers, and a few overly-drawn ensemble pieces.

This is borderline operetta, so your romantic leads must sing well, in a more legit fashion than is generally used today. This is true of many older shows, especially those authored before 19t60 or so, with operetta-like intentions.

Tommy – Lyric baritone, romantic voice with strong mid-register and some high notes.

Fiona – Soprano, clear, strong mid-range, good high notes.

Jeff – Non-Singing.

Meg – Comic alto, strong belt, clear delivery of lyric.

Charlie – Tenor, strong and clear high notes.

Jean – Non-Singing.

Harry Beaton – Non-Singing.

Archie Beaton – Bass, nice full voice.

Mr. Lundee – Non-Singing.

Mr. Maclaren – Baritone, clear and strong mid-range.

Ensemble – Strong legit-oriented voices, good belt. Good at harmonizing.

DIFFICULTY OF DANCE, CHOREOGRAPHIC CONCERNS:

This show has a lot of dance, and that dance is specialized in its feel. Thre needs to be a defined Scottish flair to much of the movement.

Numbers a Choreographer will probably need to stage include “Down On MacConnachy Square”, “I’ll Go Home With Bonnie Jean”,“Jeannie’s Packin’ Up”, “Come To Me, Bend To Me”, and “My Mother’s Weddin’ Day”. There’s also the big sword dance at the end of Act I, very specialized material indeed.

I’m afraid that “Down On MacConnachy Square” is another operetta-type dancing peasant number. In this case we’re introduced to the townfolk, a little bit like we are in the opening of Fiddler On The Roof, but not as well done or as interesting. You will need to represent the lie of Brigadoon the village, and it’s people, in this number. The audience must enter into their village and their lives, as well. A spirit of camaraderie and play should permeate the proceedings. And you’ll want to emphasize individual characters, their personalities and unique professions, to move the number away from ensemble townfolk sensibilities. So pull humor from personalities, and movement as well. Rather than have everyone move at the same time in the same way, overall, promote the characters as individuals.

“I’ll Go Home With Bonnie Jean” is a young man’s celebration of his life, the woman he loves, and of the wedding night to come. It slows down as it approaches the topic of sex, and then…well…sort of explodes with speed and energy, and therein lies the structure and the humor. Needless to say, these characters are all 1700s, so though they all understand what the young man is really talking about, they can all pretend this is nothing but a clean, high-spirited celebration of youth and possibility…that will result in many children being born.

“Jeannie’s Packin’ Up” might almost have a feeling of ritual about it. The thing every daughter must do as she leaves home to be with the man she has selected. The other women participating have either been through this before, and know the drill, or they have not and they are in wonder, in mystery, perhaps even fear for Jeannie. This is a feminine answer to the last number, more contained, more ritualized, less lost to abandon. None the less sexual, and perhaps a deeply uncomfortable thing for Jeannie’s surviving parent.

“Come To Me, Bend To Me” is nothing less than an attempted seduction, and Charlie is a bad, bad boy. After all, if he’ll just wait a few hours then the maid will be rightfully his. Ah, well, the crazy young. Fortunately, a window stands between Charlie and his goal, though she can melt with love on the other side. And why does nobody else hear all this, like Jeannie’s father? If he does, there’s a chance for some human character development, as he allows the inevitable to happen while he perhaps fingers his long-dead wife’s signature in his Bible, and remembers his own youthful endeavors. This would certainly deepen the moment and perhaps move the audience.

There’s a Wedding Dance, and Charlie and Jean are at the heart of it. It would be fun and surprising if Jean danced like a whirlwind, her blood racing with hormones and fears over the night to come. Rather than just a bunch of steps, the characters and their relationship can be entertainingly developed.

The sword dance is apparently a variation of a traditional and rather dangerous wedding ritual. Obviously you’ll be using dull blades, but it could still be quite a dangerous thing. It would be swell if Harry was cast because he already had expertise with this specialty, but so unlikely. I would think some serious research and intensive pre-choreographic work will be in order before the rehearsal where this gets staged. It should appear to be dangerous, as it opens the door to all the dangerous action to follow, culminating in a death. By the way, Harry does this with other male dancers, at least at one point in the number. Good luck with that.

The search at the top of Act II is musicalized, and may require choreographic assistance. Much of the town is rushing through the trees of the forest,. Looking for Harry and singing as they go. (Yes, this is sort of more operetta-type stuff, and no, I’m not fond of it.) I think the moment should feel chaotic, random, and desperate. Regimented choreography would remove the pressure on the moment and make it appear “staged,” which would be a real mistake. This is not to say is should not be staged, it should, or people will get hurt. It should, however, not look staged. It should look harried, hurried, chaotic.

“My Mother’s Weddin’ Day” happens after yet another “rustic” moment, a country dance. This is a number sung by the comic female lead for the company to watch, but I feel the rustic dance should be cut, and the movement instead, the celebration and relief for their continued survival, be expressed through this number. Let everyone participate with Meg instead of watch her, and dance with her and others as the piece pick up steam. She’s singing about their families, their ancestors, and each townsperson can respond as their name is called out in lyric, and join in the dance. Just keep Meg center and front, and perhaps let the dance revolve around her as she sings. Which is not to say that she would not enjoy a twirl with a few of the men. The chorus sings a bit as it is, take the idea and make the entire number a town-wide celebration, one she forcibly pushes to the front of and takes over.

I think the dance in the show needs to be always pointed to the story, and the psychological condition of the characters. The critics at the time this show came out sometimes wrote that they felt Brigadoon was actually the first, or one of the first well-integrated Musicals, meaning all the music, dance and dialogue helped forward plot and characters. It certainly has the potential to be presented that way, as I’ve indicated in this section. But what you do as a Choreographer is going to make a huge difference in how well this all works. A lot of movement for movement’s sake and the show will feel random and dispersed. Since it’s already a fantasy, it runs the risk of the audience disassociating themselves with it, choosing not to believe or to suspend disbelief. The movement could badly exacerbate that problem, or it can deepen characters and our understanding of the plot and the stakes. Over to you.

CASTING CONCERNS:

Tommy – In his 30s or so. A handsome, reasonably athletic America. He is capable, and knows something about street fighting, since he disarms Harry. He is reasonably scrappy, curious, unafraid to step into the woods and get lost, as he does. This is, in part, because he feels he is looking for something missing in his life. Likeable, or you’ll really have problems with the audience when he rejects his fiance so coolly. We have to root for him to return to Fiona at all costs. Cast for voice, type and acting, some movement.

Fiona – A young woman recently into her adulthood. Beautiful, endearing, bright, feisty. Like Tommy, she feels incomplete, and living in Brigadoon, the chances she’ll meet the right man are small to none. (Too small a sample size.) But she is fully adult and ready for an adult situation with a man. There could be something almost unearthly about her (and the other residents of Brigadoon). Cast for type, voice, acting and then movement.

Jeff – A bit older than Tommy, not much. An eternal bachelor, uninterested in the hassle of a relationship. A drunk who loves his ease and his parties. It’s interesting that he is so willing to leave his comforts and go into the forest with Tommy, and one might wonder what that is all about. He’s not interested in the attractive and active Meg,. Or at least, not much. One wonders. A non-singing comic lead, cast for acting and type. Must have a knack for a sharp, cynical line, and know how to work it for a laugh.

Meg – Perhaps in her 20s. A predator of sorts, after every male in sight. Aggressive, fun, funny, determined. Should be reasonably attractive, but apparently not enough to hold onto any of the men. Cast for type, acting, voice, and then movement. She has two big comic numbers, and she must belt well and clearly.

Charlie – The groom-to-be. As Scottish as the Highlands themselves, his hormones are running mad on him. Just into his adult years, and with an urgent need to marry…or at least get to the wedding night. Educated at a major University, perhaps the most educated person in town next to the schoolmaster. A real catch. Cast for voice, type, acting, movement, will need to do all well.

Jean – Charlie’s very shy and almost silent intended. Should be just beautiful, just of age. She does a Wedding Dance with Charlie, and it would be great if, after all that quiet, she burned with passion and led him, taking him for a jaunt in the dance that surprises everyone and hints at the nature of the marriage to come. Cast for type, acting.

Harry Beaton – An angry young man, about Charlie’s age, spurned by the woman he loves and bent on changing his life. Filled with desperation, he is willing to throw away the lives of everyone he knows out of hate and rejection. Must dance extremely well for the Sword Dance. Cast a strong dancer who can act and is the right type.

Archie Beaton – Harry’s long-suffering and fearful father. Will sing wioth ensdemble. Cast for type and acting, the movement and voice.

Mr. Lundee – The schoolmaster and “wise man” of the tale. In his 50s or older. Must have a still, calm sense about him, almost detached, but loving. His is “the voice of God” in the story. Cast for acting and type.

Mr. Maclaren – Fiona and Jean’s father. He has lost his wife long ago, and raised his daughters through his own labor. Not they are grown and leaving, he perhaps is thrilled for them, but lonely and lost. Still works to be the man in charge, at least in his own house. Cast for type, acting, voice.

Ensemble – All must sing and dance and be believable types for a Highland town in the 1700s. You will need a bartender (Frank), and Tommy’s well-bred New York fiance, Jane, and they should double as these modern-world examples of everything attractive, sophisticated but cold that Tommy will leave behind, and as townspeople. Just hide them well as townspeople so we don’t wonder how they got to modern day NYC, we cannot recognize them.

SETS:

The forest is important. It is the symbolic barrier between the modern world and Brigadoon. It is the point where the two touch, as well. It should feel foreign, mystical, a mist rising from the roots of the trees. These can be painted on screens of material, and raised into the rafters to reveal Brigadoon.

The town can be a dirt road, a couple of homey houses with straw roofs, trees (it’s just inside the forest, which we might see in the background), perhaps a hill ion the distance covered with heather, all painted. Working doors in the backdrop so people can enter and exit into the square, perhaps. It must feel that it belongs to the period, mid 1700s or so, in the Highlands of Scotland.

Other locations in Brigadoon should be cutaways and partial or suggestive sets, perhaps placed right in the square. The Brockie shed can be a false wood rood, suspended by wire from the rafters and lowered into place, a rocking chair and a bale of hay carried on and off.

The MacLaren house might use the Brockie roof, but also lower a clean white wall in the back, plaster or something like that, and a frame for a window for Charlie to sing through. It’s open in the front, and the door is assumed to be there. Whatever you do, there is quite a bit of action here, and this is one of the more developed sets in the show. You’ll need a piece of furniture to place the Bible on, which everyone signs with a quill pen, of course.

The meeting with Mr. Lundee can happen in an isolated light, perhaps a tree (painted on material) is lowered from the rafters, and a rocker (the same used in Meg’s scene, perhaps) brought on for the wise, old man. No set required, really.

The party can take place in the square, saving a set, and why not? The set is already established as “Brigadoon.” If you have money, fly in a magical hillside filled with heather for the wedding, and why not!

The search for Harry takes place in and among the trees, but perhaps not the full forest as they must still be in Brigadoon. Thin out the number of trees you drop. The bulk of the first part of Act II can take place in these woods.

When we go to the bar, perhaps that could be played “in one”, on the apron, if you’re using a proscenium stage. You just need a roll-on bar, three stools, and a bartender behind the bar. Lowering an appropriate “chic” NYC lamp or set of lamps from above would be a nice touch, and the bar is an upper-class affair, it should look it. The raise the main drape for the last scene, and the forest is there, waiting.

The most difficult aspects of all this if you are using a proscenium stage with flies is the middle of Act I, where we see the MacLaren house. That house requires that it have a main room, and a bedroom (visible) for Jean with a window through which Charlie can sing, and be seen. This will either need to be lowered fro the rafters or rolled on, as it is specific. You could lower a few trees around the house to give it a unique feel as to location.

If you’re working with a stage without flies or wings, you’ll need to go unit set. Perhaps the forest could be a lighting effect, heavy shadows, strange projected shapes, and sound effects to go with it, and mist, heavy enough to add to the mystery. Forget trees as such. Then, lights rise and mist clears, and we see the main setting, Brigadoon’s square. Meg’s shed can be placed at one side of the stage, and brought on, and can consist of a bale of hay and a rocking chair. Then you have the problem of the MacLaren house. Perhaps one of the “backdrops” in the square in the MacLaren House, and it can open up like a picture book to reveal the main room, and Jean’s bedroom, window and all. That way no new set needs to be brought on, or struck later. Then, close the house like a book when done, while you isolate in light Lundee on his rocker, covering the change. Then to the party, in the square, or in a dale surrounded by trees (created by light and mist), into which Harry runs.

Act II would have the town square struck. The stage would be all darkness, shadows, trees, mist, sounds. This would carry through until Fiona vanishes. Lights could then rise on the bar, placed at the back of the stage during Intermission. At the end of that scene, simply lower the lights and go back to the forest effect.

The show is not tough, for sets, surprisingly enough. Really, it can be done with a forest or forest effect, the square (containing the Lundee house), and the partial set of the NYC bar. The important thing about these three base sets, regardless of your approach, is that they each feel very different from the others. You’ll want to coordinate closely with your Lighting Designer to accomplish this. The overall feel should be grim, mysterious, mystical forest; homey, welcoming antiquated period-correct Brigadoon town square; cold, antiseptic, sophisticated NYC bar. Get this right and you’ll have added to the magic in the show.

COSTUMES:

Tommy and Jeff are “contemporary” – circa late 1940s, if you don’t move the story to today. You should move it to today if possible, there’s no real reason not to. They are hiking and dressed for it, though Jeff brings “supplies” along, so his throat won’t dry up. They should look like martians to the residents of Brigadoon, and vice verse.

You’ll want to study up on traditional Scottish wear of the mid 1700s or so. But do remember you’re doing a Musical Comedy. The clothes should be bright, fun, interesting. And your actors will be dancing in them. The women should look womanly, the men, manly. Each family should have its own weave, of course. And appropriate tam o shanters and scarves.

In NYC, Frank the bartender is dressed it white shirt, apron, dark slacks. He’s a bartender. Jane is dressed to kill, in her most sophisticated, che-che dress or outfit, great shoes, great nails, great hair, maybe hat and gloves depending on the period. She is everything Fiona is not. Fiona should be dressed to be lovely but simple and rustic, nothing grand. Jane is Upper New York class. And Jeff should be dressed in a suit appropriate to the environment. Tommy, when he shows up, can be in jeans and a countrified shirt, he’s been on a farm. The boys have a quick change at the end of this scene, to hastily assembled hiking clothes again. The shoes will be the hardest part of this. Raise the lights slowly on the next scene, and let the “spookiness” of the forest assert itself before they wander in, giving them a chance to change.

This might be quite a job. Costume shops may help, but don’t be surprised if you need to build a lot of the costumes. Start early with this, as soon as you get sizes, and work closely with your Director and other designers.

PROPS:

Hiking gear. Appropriate cloth and clothing, and food, to be sold in the square. The Bible everyone signs, and a quill pen with ink. Heather. Swords to dance with. A wedding veil. Glasses and booze for the bar. Jeff’s portable potables. Overall, not too terrible an assignment.

LIGHTING:

A big part of the magic of the show. I’ve described the forest, up above. Brigadoon should be awash in the light of that Northern European land. And this is a Musical, so dance and comedy numbers should be lit to pop. And there are lovely ballads requiring mood lighting. The NYC bar should be cool, modern, electric, lacking mystery. Not too rough a design job outside of the forest, which allows you to show off your creative skills. Probably not tons of cues except in the chase scene that starts Act II.

MAKE-UP:

Unobtrusive, don’t go “fantasy”. Make-up tastes have changed since the 1700s, but not all that much, as paintings show us. (Use paintings as a guide.) Keep it simple, don’t go “fantasy.” The fantasy elements will be clear enough without make-up help.

KEY PERSONNEL (The ones you MUST get right.):

Director, Musical Director, Choreographer, Set Designer, Costume Designer, Lighting Designer, Tommy, Fiona, Jeff, Meg.

MY THOUGHTS:

I played Mr. Lundee, and helped direct this show while in Jr. High School. Matter of fact, this was the first show I worked on as a Director. I can’t remember what I did back then, but I’m sue it was absolutely stellar… And I apologize to the audience and my classmates, in retrospect. Sorry, Lawrence Jr. High! I do this sort of thing better, now.

Brigadoon is a sweet, reasonably smart show written by two men who revealed themselves a decade later to be masters of the form. They had not yet quite arrived at that mastery when they wrote this show, but there are signs of genius in some of the score, some of the dialogue, and some of the construction of action. The show can definitely entertain if you can hold down the rustic aspects of the story, which Lerner was never really good at. Like so many other fine writers of that time, even Frank Loesser, Lerner sometimes forgot that the Musical is a sophisticated form, a product of the big city and well-funded arts. Bucolic townsfolk were the name of the game thirty years before Brigadoon was authored, but come the 1930s, bucolic didn’t p[lay all that well anymore in NYC, or anywhere else that appreciated what Musicals could be.

In doing this show, I think it best to soft-pedal the “village” country life aspect of the story, and emphasize instead the miracle, the mystery of these people. That will pull a modern audience in rather than push them away (or set them sniggering). Push to the front the mystery of Brigadoon, the humor in the book, take it easy on the romantic aspects, they already dominate. And keep things moving, save your pauses for only the one or two most important moments in the tale. The choreography and design elements will need to be striking and fun.

This show still has some life in it…but not for much longer, I would think. The bucolic farm-country sensibility is too engrained, and a modern audience won’t go there willingly. The approach described will help make the show work, and keep it alive for a while, but its mortality is sure, unlike the citizens who live in the show’s namesake.

One peculiar thing. The second act is unusually short compared to the first. It may well run about 30 minutes. Your first act may be quite a bit longer, say an hour thirty. You could push the Intermission up to the mystery of a meeting with Lundee, and save his revelation and the Wedding for Act II, if you want more even act timing. That may work.