October 20, 2014

Outdoor setting enhances ‘Brigadoon’ production

Corinne C. Broadbent as the Narrator and Christopher DeRosa as Joseph in the Summer Theatre of New Canaan production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Wise village schoolmaster Mr. Lundie (Pat Spaulding of New Fairfield, center) counsels young lovers Fiona MacLaren and Tommy Albright (Caitlin and Nathan Mandracchia of Sherman) in the Lerner and Loewe’s enchanting musical fantasy “Brigadoon,” playing outdoors under the stars at Musicals at Richter in Danbury, July 5-21.  Wise village schoolmaster Mr. Lundie (Pat Spaulding of New Fairfield, center) counsels young lovers Fiona MacLaren and Tommy Albright (Caitlin and Nathan Mandracchia of Sherman) in the Lerner and Loewe’s enchanting musical fantasy “Brigadoon,” playing outdoors under the stars at Musicals at Richter in Danbury, July 5-21. Spread out on the sprawling lawns of Richter Park in Danbury, the ever-romantic Lerner and Loewe musical, “Brigadoon,” proved perfect for this outdoor site and for the second production of the Musicals at Richter season.

Plaid-clad lads and lassies would stroll up the hill to the glen or disappear into the natural tree-lined backdrop. If any show fits the natural arena of an outdoor venue, it is “Brigadoon.” 

 It’s not easy to buy into the storyline that two American hunters, Tommy Albright and Jeff Douglas, take a trip to Scotland before Tommy’s wedding and come upon an island that arises out of nowhere once every hundred  years. It’s even more difficult to do so with the way this is blocked on the side of the stage at Richter. Nonetheless, once the hunters step into this fantastical land, they are thoroughly caught up in it. Though  Tommy had reservations about his upcoming marriage, he had no problem roamin’ through the gloamin’ once he set his eyes on Fiona McClaren. 

Husband/wife team Nathan Mandracchia and Caitlin Mandracchia strike all the right chords and make beautiful music together. The two of them have the strongest voices in the cast. When they sing, “Almost Like Being in Love” it’s most convincing. Also delivering a fine performance is Tommy’s sidekick Ted Schwartz, who creates a solidly believable character. 

The rest of cast delivers a mixed bag of performances. However, the spotlighted dancers are wonderful and the musicians add to the pleasure of the performance. Songs such as “I’ll Go Home with Bonnie Jean,” “Heather on the Hill,” and “Come to Me, Bend to Me” are as lovely as ever under the musical direction of Tina M. Lorusso. 

 Donald E. Birely directs the production and Jeri Kansas has captured the  fine choreography. In addition to the large cast of actors there are three ensembles: adult, teen, and youth. Renee Purdy’s costume design emphasizes the various plaids of the Scottish clans. 

The set is a strange rendering of the mythical locale. While the natural park setting works like a charm, the set itself looks more like a scene from a cartoon than a magical world. When the set changes to a New York bar scene, all is lost scenically. 

 Pat Spaulding delivers an outstanding performance as Mr. Lundie, the man who explains the 100-year policy and the conditions necessary for an outsider to remain in Brigadoon. “A stranger can stay if he loves someone here — someone in Brigadoon — enough to want to give up everythin’ an’ stay with that one person.” It’s a condition that Tommy gladly accepts. 

The Musicals at Richter production of “Brigadoon” plays through July 21. Box office: 203-748-6873 or musicalsatrichter.org.

 Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in The American Theatre Critics Association, and covers art and culture for CBS and CBS-CT.  She welcomes comments. Contact: jgrochman@gmail.com.