A timeless fantasy from the 1940s, the Lerner and Loewe musical "Brigadoon" has been richly revived by the San Gabriel Civic Light Opera in a production redolent with the lilt of the Scottish Highlands.
This quasi-operetta of love and romance in a mystical Scottish realm called Brigadoon launches the eighth season of the Civic Light Opera in the 1,400-seat San Gabriel Civic Auditorium. It's a boisterous, plaintive and textured show, capturing the misty elegance of Frederick Loewe's enduring score and Alan Jay Lerner's lyric drama.
The production, not to mention a packed house Saturday night, certainly confirms the San Gabriel opera as a sturdy operation among community civic light operas in Southern California. "Brigadoon," with its earnest nostalgia and delicate duets, is a show that could vanish into mere quaintness in a big, old cavernous house. But it remains fresh at the California mission-styled Civic Auditorium, in part because the 1926 theater, one of Southern California's best-kept secrets, is itself a fantasy: a refurbished Spanish treasure with bell-like acoustics, box seats, a raked floor that allows great sight lines and a beautiful "floating" ceiling of inlaid Indian art.
Director Bill Shaw, guiding a 46-member cast, sweeps you to a past time and place that is never hokey. The show was Lerner and Loewe's first hit--others include "My Fair Lady" and "Camelot"--and has an innocence that is sweetly eloquent. The story of undaunted love between an American tourist, played by Amick Byram, and a Scottish lass (Tricia O'Connell) has been etched in stone with the help of such memorable numbers as "Almost Like Being in Love," "Heather on the Hill" and "There but for You Go I."
The requisite Scottish brogue at the civic is thick as syrup but the accents bring a smile to the ear. And, vocally, the attractive lovers Byram and O'Connell passionately propel the magic. Key supporting characters also animate events, notably, Paul MacKey's stout-hearted groom, Leah Key's kilt-chasing lass, Maryline Coy's luscious bride, Kelly Flynn's wisecracking, cynical American traveler and Hank Wilson's rotund schoolmaster.
The production, splashed across the wide, 90-foot proscenium stage, features solid arrangements from M. Roger Lockie's pit orchestra, a flavorful singing ensemble, and vibrant dances from choreographer Rikki Lugo (notwithstanding the dancer in the funereal ode who is graceful but overwrought).
When first staged in 1947, the story was thought to be based on a Scottish legend, but Lerner later said he had made it up, from "a thought" he and collaborator Loewe had "about faith moving a mountain. Eventually, the faith moved a town."
In the libretto, two travelers from America step into a time warp, a dark gray forest of a mist-laden dreamland that materializes for one day every 100 years. If the sets for the production look a tad recycled, by the way, there's a good reason: They are the very same scrims, said artistic director Shaw, used in the Broadway national tour that played the old L.A. Philharmonic in 1950 (and rented by the Civic Light Opera from a scenery studio in Dallas). Talk about nostalgia!
\o7 "Brigadoon," 320 S. Mission Drive, San Gabriel, Thursdays through Saturdays, 8:15 p.m.; Sundays, 7:15 p.m; Saturdays and Sundays, 2:15 p.m. Ends Oct. 27. $15-$30. (818) 308-2868. Running time: 2 hours, 45 minutes. \f7