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Brigadoon – Review

February 28, 2014 | By | 3 Replies More

✭✭✭✩✩   Solidly entertaining

King’s Theatre
Wed 26 Feb – Sat 1 March 2014

Romance and kitsch are present in equal proportions in Southern Light Opera’s staging of Brigadoon at the Edinburgh King’s until Saturday.

Which is probably as it should be. This is, after all, a musical nearing its 70 anniversary and it would need a very thorough revamp to overcome the niceties of the age in which it was born.

Kat Angus and Eddie McDowell. Photo © Lorna Frier

Kat Angus and Eddie McDowell. Photo © Lorna Frier

Indeed, director Laura Jordan Reed gives the production a slightly quaint but decidedly old-fashioned formality as the magical village of Brigadoon appears out of the Scottish mist to two American hunters one fine May morning.

Here is the 1940s meeting the 1740s, or at least a 1940s ideal of a Bonny Scottish 1740s. After all, this is not historical verisimilitude, but escapist romance.

The remote Highland village of Brigadoon has been blessed (according to most) to disappear and return into existence for only one day every hundred years. Today is the day of its second return, and a day on which a wedding has been planned.

The American hunters have their own foibles but are bemused by the ways of the village in which they find themselves. That is upstanding but troubled Tommy, having second thoughts about his own impending marriage, and his best pal, happy-go-lucky Jeff who likes a drop of the hard stuff.

And as is usual in the ways of romantic comedy, as they wander through this oasis of innocence, the likely lads don’t stand a chance against the local girls.

This is a musical which is packed to the gills with big tunes. Fortunate, then, that Southern Light has the soloists who are right up to the mark when it comes to delivering them. And when it comes to old-fashioned, then the two lovers, Kat Angus as local lass Fiona and Eddie McDowell as Tommy, are just perfectly pitched.

Kat Angus has a purity of tone and clarity of timbre – with just the right level of vibrato – to transport you back to the golden age of musicals. Against her soaring voice which never strains for her highest notes, McDowell’s warm head-tone provides a fitting contrast. Their two big duets – Heather on the Hill and Almost Like Being in Love – are real high-points of the production.

“gleefully bawdy”

If Tommy has to fall in love, then Jeff is to be subjected to an altogether more earthy time in Brigadoon. It is a real delight to see Peter Tomassi back on the stage in the role of Jeff. In terms of characterisation and development he provides the biggest and most rounded performance of the whole production.

 Judith Baron and Peter Tomassi. Photo © Lorna Frier

Against him, Judith Baron has pulled the best female role of the show as Meg Brockie, the man-eating villager whose appetite is large and voracious. Meg’s seduction of Jeff in the Brockie Bothy is beautifully judged from both sides, and Baron’s delivery of The Love of My Life – in which she details all her failed romances and adventures “up the glen” – is gleefully bawdy.

There is nothing to fault in Baron’s delivery or the general staging of My Mother’s Wedding Day, either. Following the catastrophic ending to the wedding between Fiona’s sister Jean to her lifelong sweetheart Charlie, Meg lightens the mood with the tale of her parent’s drunken nuptials – at which she was present.

It’s in the between-song moments that this production fails to go to the heights that it might. The marriage of Jean (Donna Ewing) to Charlie (Colin Povey), with the drama of the death of the spurned and jealous Harry (Scott Walker), should provide a smoothly developing backdrop to frame the affair between Fiona and Tommy.

Instead, however, this is a collection of great numbers that stutters, rather than flows, from one to the next. The individual numbers are excellently done, if a little stilted at times in terms of that quaint formality, but there is a too much of the stand and deliver about them.

There is promise here, though, and even an indication that there could be more depth to be found in a less conventional production. In particular, as Scott Walker gives Harry a voice of legitimate dissent, Harry’s desire to leave Brigadoon – and thus end the miracle – provides a glimpse of the complex moral contradiction on which this supposed utopia is based.

A thoroughly entertaining evening, with all its big songs delivered as they should be. But it is one that neither fully revels in the innocence of the original nor adequately brings it into the 21st century.

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Run ends Saturday 1 March 2014
7.30pm. Matinee Sat 2.30pm.
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street EH3 9LQ
Tickets from www.edtheatres.com/brigadoon

ENDS

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Comments (3)

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  1. Thom Dibdin says:

    Kat Angus, who played Fiona, has an interesting blog about production week, with some extra snaps of the show – and insight to world of a lead soloist: Brigadoon, or: How to Survive Show Week

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