by Rikki Lee Travolta
If you turn on the news on television or glance at the headlines on the Internet, you’ll be besieged with reflections of a world plagued by many polarizing issues – war in foreign countries, domestic terrorism, political unrest, the harsh reality of climate change, and infectious diseases that already shut down the country once and continue to affect our way of life.
With all this turmoil in the air, the prospect of escaping into the world of musical theater for a few hours is an inviting one. That is the exact type of escape that director Sasha Gerritson aims to offer with Music Theater Works’ lovingly created revival of Brigadoon.
Brigadoon was written in the 1940s, featuring book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe. The creative duo is responsible for such other hits as Gigi, My Fair Lady, and Camelot.
The musical’s story is that of a simple fantasy. Two American tourists on a hunting trip to the highlands of Scotland stumble upon a magical village that only appears to the rest of the world one day every 100 years. While visiting the charmed community, one of the tourists falls in love with one of the town’s young beauties – leaving him to choose between returning to his unsatisfying life in New York City, or giving up his family and friends to stay in Brigadoon forever.
Brigadoon was Lerner and Loewe’s first big hit. They’d collaborated on the musicals Life of the Party, What’s Up?, and The Day Before Spring, but none of them won over audiences with the fervor that writers hope for. Inspired by the success of Rogers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! and Carousel, Lerner and Loewe set out to write something of a similar tone and feel that audiences could easily connect to. The result was Brigadoon.
Like the successful works of Rogers and Hammerstein, Brigadoon’s main focus is a love story. This is then complimented by some minor romance subplots and the contrast of city life to the simplicity of the country. Ultimately, the overall theme is that true love can transcend time and conquer all.
The original Broadway production of Brigadoon premiered in 1947. The musical was well received, and choreographer Agnes de Mille won the Tony Award for her choreography that combined elements of theatrical dance styles with traditional Scottish folk dance.
The production now underway from Music Theater Works at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, IL is helmed by Board of Directors co-president Sasha Gerritson, with music direction by Michael McBride, and dances by choreographer/assistant director Clayton Cross.
Gerritson brings a wealth of experience and knowledge as a director, including an extensive background in piloting operas including collaborations with the heralded Opera Festival of Chicago.
Our two Americans on holiday are Tommy Albright and Jeff Douglas, played by Conor Jordan and Zachary Linnert – both fine actors.
Jordan is the classic musical theatre leading man. He is tall, handsome, and possesses the star quality of being able to brood with the best of them. He has a deep, rich voice that fills the theater with both power and beauty.
Linnert avoids the pitfalls of being just a comic relief sidekick. He gives his character every bit of development the script allows. It is a strong performance.
For Tommy Albright to want to give up his successful life in America to join a magical Scottish clan, the apple of his eye has to be pretty incredible. Enter Sarah Obert who plays Fiona with an endearing charm. She is a strong woman, yet one who can follow her heart. Obert’s exquisite operatic voice seems tailor-made for director Gerritson’s vision.
The supporting cast is also made up of performers exhibiting a vast wealth of talent. Madison Kauffman is magnificent as sexually charged lass Meg Brockle. She has an electric energy that is utterly captivating. If there is one regret leaving the theater at the end of the night, it is that Kauffman didn’t have more scenes. A talented singer and dancer, Kauffman’s charisma as an actress could light up a small city.
A subplot in the story features the romance of Charlie Dalrymple and Jean MacLaren, played by Luke Nowakowski and Susannah Harvey. The two are slated to marry, crushing the belief of villager Harry Beaton that he should be Jean’s groom. Will Leonard gives a fantastic performance as Harry. He is highly skilled in playing far more than the simple character in the script; his passionate and moving portrayal invokes an array of emotions.
Casting for Brigadoon is superb all the way around. The ensemble also includes Stan Austin, Bob Sanders, Kent Joseph, Timothy Wolf, Adam Raso, Delany Good, Isa Ramirez, Jimmy Hogan, Anna Marie Abbate, Emma Jean Eastlund, Theresa Egan, David Geinosky, Dee Kimpel, Olivia Russell, Alex Villasenor, Chad Gearig-Howe, and Renee Dwyer.
A simple set design by Ann Davis provides all the cast needs to tell their story – putting the focus on the actors and not the scenery. Lighting design is by Andrew Meyers, sound design is by Vija Lapp, costume design is by Jazmin Aurora Median, and props are engineered by Emmett Wickersham. Hair, wigs, and makeup are by Alice Salazar, while fight choreography is by Amber Wuttke, intimate moments are staged by Elena Patterson, and Kathy Logelin provides guidance as dialect coach.
The Brigadoon performance schedule includes Wednesdays at 1 PM, Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 2 PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 2 PM. The North Shore Center for the Performing Arts is a lovely venue with a very supportive and professional staff. The theatre is located at 9501 Skokie Blvd in Skokie.
For ticket information visit the Music Theater Works website at www.MusicTheaterWorks.com or call the box office at (847) 673-6300. Group discounts for parties of 10 or more are available by calling (847) 920-5360.
Enjoy the true spirit of the Golden Age of Broadway with Music Theater Works’ heartwarming production of the Brigadoon, delightfully brought to life by director Sasha Gerritson. It’s the kind of feel-good theater that the world needs right now. Brigadoon plays through November 12, 2023.
Photo credit: Collin Quinn
Peace. Love. Trust.
Rikki Lee Travolta
For more reviews visit: Theatre in Chicago – your source for What’s on Stage in the Chicago Area
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