By Mike Keenan
Musicals are always the big draw for theatre companies such as The Shaw Festival, and a prime source of revenue. This season, Shaw has a winner with Brigadoon, Lerner and Loewe’s 1947 collaboration featuring the quaint Scottish town, a magical venue that appears for only 24 hours every 100 years.
Corwin Ferguson’s clever projections indicate that Brigadoon is the high dosage antidote for the war-weary, whether it’s the 1746 Battle of Culloden or more contemporary World War II. As with several plays last season, Artistic Director Tim Carroll adroitly commemorates the 75th anniversary of Canadians landing on Normandy’s Juno Beach, part of D-Day. We find two friends ‒ George Krissa as Tommy Albright, soon-to-be-married back home in New York City, and his cynical sidekick, Mike Nadajewski as Jeff Douglas, escaping from wearisome war memories via a brief hunting trip in the Scottish Highlands. Soon-to-be husband and best man.
The two Americans arrive in Brigadoon quite lost and seeking directions, only to be caught up in a festive wedding celebration between Matt Nethersole as Charlie Dalrymple and Madelyn Kriese as Jane MacLaren, who both dance and sing with romantic reckless abandon. Kudos to choreographer Linda Garneau who keeps all of the footwork nimble with the larger troupes filling the set as well as the smaller groupings like the sword dance that features a high-stepping Travis Seetoo.
The Brigadoon musical selections are expertly-played by a proficient 16-piece orchestra directed by Shaw’s talented Paul Sportelli, but they contain only one song that one might remember, “Almost Like Being In Love.” This song title reflects the core problem for Krissa ‒ return home to marry a woman he realizes that he does not love or remain forever in Brigadoon but with his newfound sweetheart, Fiona MacLaren (Alexis Gordon)?
The appealing, attractive set by Pam Johnson and colourful Scottish tartan costumes designed by Sue LePage complement each other handsomely on the large Festival stage. Smoke emitted from stacks, windows with flowerboxes, a Highland fog settling in and a wondrous, imposing Celtic cross, the focus of both celebration and sorrow, the latter the result of a bitter Harry Beaton (Seetoo) aiming to destroy Brigadoon because of his lost love.
The Shaw cast is quite large and talented, and director, Glynis Leyshon keeps the action moving, including humorous bawdy bits at which Kristi Frank as Meg Brockie excels.
Nadajewski is the perfect foil for Krissa. While Krissa is ready to fall madly in love with the entire concept of Brigadoon including Gordon, Nadajewski wants only to sleep and escape, not even keen to engage with the lewd Frank. His pessimism and sarcastic remarks are contrasted with Krissa’s optimism and renewed ability to love. We all know for whom to cheer.
Brigadoon, directed by Glynis Leyshon plays until Oct. 13 at the Festival Theatre, 10 Queen’s Parade, Niagara-on-the-Lake. ShawFest.com or 905-468-2172. You can access the program at https://www.shawfest.com/playbill/brigadoon/
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