Monday, June 06, 2011

A Perfectly Delightful Afternoon in 'Brigadoon' is Not to be Mist -- Theater Review

Theater Review

a classic musical by Lerner & Loewe
Presented by Light Opera Works at
Cahn Auditorium, Evanston, IL
Through June 12, 2011

On Sunday afternoon, I had the pleasure of seeing the second performance of Light Opera Works' new production of Lerner and Loewe's first masterpiece, Brigadoon.

In telling you that I found it outstanding--to the point of near Broadway quality performances accompanying LOW's trademark full orchestra treatment--it seems almost a shame that you only have four more chances to see it.

I can't say I fully understand the business model of the Evanston-based troupe that charges downtown, touring Broadway ticket prices for predominantly non-Equity performances done over just two weekends. But in picking up a half price ticket through HotTix, as I nearly always do, I was extremely pleased with just how good this production was.

Though I have long been familiar with the legacy of Lerner and Loewe--I have seen both My Fair Lady and Camelot multiple times in the last decade, as well as Light Opera Works' stage version of Gigi--I was largely unindoctrinated to Brigadoon (other than always knowing of it and loving a line mentioning it in one of my favorite songs.) This despite having owned the 1954 MGM musical version for some time, but never watching it until last weekend in anticipation of seeing this performance.

Starring the incomparable Gene Kelly, the movie is quite good but I actually found LOW's live production to be more richly satisfying in telling the tale of an enchanted town in the Scottish Highlands that rises out of the mist one day each century.

The large cast and 24-piece orchestra really brought songs like "Down on MacConnachy Square," "Almost Like Being In Love" and "I'll Go Home With Bonnie Jean" to life with a buoyancy the movie musical didn't entirely convey.

Robert Hunt, the only Actors Equity member in the cast, was outstanding as Tommy Albright, with the exceptional voice one might expect from someone who's played Javert in Les Miserables on Broadway.

Jenny Sophia was also wonderful as Tommy's love interest Fiona MacLaren  and Emily Rogers was beautiful in the balletic role of Jean MacLaren. In a cast of standouts, Clay Sanderson and Meg Brockie were two other performers particularly worth mentioning.

As I noted in reviewing their exquisite production of Carousel last August, Light Opera Works consistently demonstrates that it may be the very best musical theater organization in the Chicagoland area. They may not put on that many performances--perhaps as a consequence--but when it comes to cast size, quality, the sublime orchestra and more than adequate scenery in the somewhat confined Cahn Auditorium, they certainly don't scrimp.

I realize it may be hard to fit the limited schedule into yours, and even on HotTix, tickets aren't all that cheap. But I promise you that if you can, making your way to Brigadoon will be worth the hike.

No comments: