In its previous outing, Fullerton Civic Light Opera offered a first-class production of the Arthur Kopit-Maury Yeston "Phantom." Now it has topped that with "Brigadoon," Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's enchanted--and enchanting--Broadway operetta.
The production has been mounted at Plummer Auditorium with more charm than any FCLO revival I've seen over the past seven years. It combines the innocent aura of a childlike dream with the fluid magic of a flying carpet. It is also a pleasure to report that this "Brigadoon" is entirely homemade; no borrowed sets or costumes.
Gorgeous singing by Robert Patteri and Mardi Robins highlights this beguiling show. They are not only a rich vocal match--his mellifluous baritone and her lyric soprano have a pellucid beauty separately and together--but they are the inspiring peaks of a huge and lovely cast of more than 40. Both are needed to do justice to this 1947 classic, which helps to explain why "Brigadoon" does not come around often.
Broadway buffs with long memories know how large a gift Lerner and Loewe made to the American theater with their fairy-tale musical about a village that appears in the Scottish Highlands once every hundred years. But most theatergoers probably don't remember--or never knew--that it's a treasure to be cherished equally with the pair's more popular "My Fair Lady" and "Camelot."
The sublime score of "Brigadoon" gave us "Almost Like Being in Love," its signature song, and "The Heather on the Hill." Its wistful ballad "Come to Me, Bend to Me" even provided Andrew Lloyd Webber with one of his favorite melodies. (He got the central motif for "Music of the Night" from its opening measures.) These and "Waitin' for My Dearie, "I'll Go Home to Bonnie Jean" and "There but for You Go I," among others, come gift-wrapped in plaid kilts and colorful costumes.
Patteri, who also starred in FCLO's "Phantom," cuts a handsome figure in a romantic role that is tailored to him. He plays Tommy Albright, an American laddie engaged to be married back in New York, who happens upon Brigadoon with his buddy Jeff (Matt Miller) while hiking through the foggy highland woods. Tommy promptly, if inconveniently, falls in love with Fiona Mac Laren, a Brigadoon lassie.
Robins is an ideal fit for Fiona, who just as promptly falls in love with Tommy. They lend their storybook characters a vivid pulse, convincing us with no trouble at all that they are perfectly right to fall for each other.
The subplots involving other lovers are stock. But they offer comic entertainment, dramatic complications, light suspense and, within the bounds of a Broadway musical, tragedy. Lance Callahan, a lilting Irish tenor who plays Charlie Dalrymple, is a real find.
Jan Duncan's imaginative direction keeps the pace lively. There is never a moment that lags or a beat that's missed. Sha Newman's apt choreography is nicely executed by the company and delivers essential poetic transitions from song to story. The 22-piece orchestra sounds vibrant. There are two Scottish pipers skirling on stage as well.
The vividly painted flats exude warmth and freshness. They also fly in and out with marvelous technical precision, swiftly and silently, as they should. Kudos to Ed Gallagher for his scenic design and his timing.
With this "Brigadoon," FCLO has set a new standard of excellence for itself and moved into the big leagues.
* "Brigadoon," Plummer Auditorium, 201 E. Chapman Ave., Fullerton. Thursday to Saturday, 8 p.m., Sunday, 2 p.m., also 7 p.m. on May 21. Ends May 28. $13-$27. (714) 879-1732. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes.
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Robert Patteri: Tommy Albright
Mardi Robins: Fiona Mac Laren
Matt Miller: Jeff Douglas
Dynell Leigh: Meg Brockie
Lance Callahan: Charlie Dalrymple
Michael Guarnera: Harry Beaton
Melina Kalomas: Jean Mac Laren
H. Carl Nelson: Mr. Lundie
Stan Throneberry: Andrew Mac Laren
Ron Graham: Archie Beaton
Dave Champagne: Piper
Jim McTavish: Piper
A Fullerton Civic Light Opera production of a musical by Alan Jay Lerner (book and lyrics) and Frederick Loewe (music). Director: Jan Duncan. Musical director-conductor: Benton Minor. Choreographer: Sha Newman (original dances created by Agnes DeMille). Scenic designer: Ed Gallagher. Lighting designer: Donna Ruzika. Original costume design: Edith Melcher. Costume coordinator: Ambra Wakefield. Sound design: Nelsonics. Production stage manager: Donna R. Parsons.