Before modern musicals like “Avenue Q” and “Spamalot,” a show’s success depended less on its tendency to combine the latest pop culture references and more on its ability to present timeless and touching stories. This weekend, the Department of Musical Theatre will draw its audiences back to this idyllic age of theatrical history with Lerner and Loewe’s “Brigadoon,” a love story that transcends time for its characters and its viewers.
Tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m., tomorrow and Sunday at 2 p.m.
“Brigadoon” tells the tale of a legendary town of the same name nestled in the hills of Scotland. Thanks to a heaven-sent miracle meant to shield the villagers from the evils of the outside world, Brigadoon only appears for a single day every 100 years.
When two wayward American travelers stumble upon this anachronistic village, they are warmly welcomed by the curious townsfolk. But when one of the travelers falls head-over-heels for the village sweetheart, he finds himself faced with the ultimate choice: Stay with the people of Brigadoon and leave behind his old life, or let the miraculous town, along with his true love, fade away into the mist for another century.
“Brigadoon” opened in 1947, at the height of the “golden age” of musicals. Though the popularity of the show in subsequent years was eclipsed somewhat by the 1960s film adaptations of other Lerner and Loewe musicals, like “Camelot” and “My Fair Lady,” “Brigadoon” remains a stunning example of golden age musical theater, making it an enticing choice for the University’s musical theater department.
“We try to introduce our students to classic as well as contemporary shows, and it was time for a classic show,” said Linda Goodrich, the show’s director and an associate professor in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance. “We haven’t done one of the golden era shows in awhile, and these represent an incredibly important period of music to study.”
“Brigadoon” is often noted for its complicated vocal work and intricate dance routines, in addition to the acting it requires. The rigorous nature of the musical demands not only a full cast of triple-threat performers, but also a strenuous rehearsal schedule that splits and later recombines the show’s different performance elements.
“We start by working on dance teams, on musical staging, on songs,” Goodrich said. “Then once all of the pieces are developed, we come back together and start to combine them into one work.”
Though “Brigadoon” is not one of Lerner and Loewe’s most well-known shows, Goodrich said quality and diversity, and not simply commercial familiarity, are the keys to a production that’s truly meaningful for its student performers and the public.
“We’re not necessarily looking for a blockbuster,” Goodrich said. “We’re looking for something that’s good for our students to do. And it’s also our job to bring all different kinds of theater to the public. You have to educate your audience on all different aspects of theater.”
Goodrich found that watching her performers connect with “Brigadoon” has been her favorite part of developing the musical itself.
“I’ve really enjoyed seeing these young people fall in love with it,” Goodrich said. “Even though it’s an old musical, it becomes fresh because it’s young people experiencing it for the first time and then bringing their own life to it.”