DRAPER — Brigadoon is a musical written by Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner that has been around over 50 years. The music is well known, and the story one that brings a person in to a world of fantasy and imagination. What would it be like if for one town time stood still? In the story, two American tourists, Tommy and Jeff, are hiking through the highlands of Scotland when they happen upon a town they cannot locate on the map. Upon entering the town, they discover that the people are in traditional Scottish Tartan and that perhaps there is a secret to this town. Moreover, the town does not seem to be like anything they are used to back in New York. What follows is a story of love, faith, devotion, and belief.
The Draper Historic Theatre is in a small building in Draper. I almost drove right past it, but when I realized where I was, I actually felt a bit of excitement. Although seeing a professional production in a big Broadway house is one of the most amazing experiences a theatre lover can have, I am also truly impressed by small communities that work together to not only provide entertainment, but also to foster and develop talent with those willing to work at it.
Walking in to the theater, I could hear traditional Scottish music playing in the auditorium. This was a great choice, as it helped me get into the feel of the show. I examined the stage and saw a simple set and backdrop, with rock formations along the stage, and highland hills painted in the background. This, in combination with the music, made me feel that I had already been transported across the ocean and back in time.
As the show started and the chorus began to sing, I could tell they worked hard to make sure the harmonies in “Once in the Highlands” and “Brigadoon” were clean and crisp. But, the positive musical experience was soon surpassed by the costumes (designed by Deborah Wooden). Great attention was paid to the traditional Scottish Tartan. It is apparent that Wooden had done her research, and the costumes were both true to the time period, as well as designed well enough to be pleasing to the audience eye.
Another thing that I appreciated from the onset were the Scottish accents used by the entire cast. Often in community theatre, it is difficult to have the time and resources in order to help the cast master something as difficult as a foreign accent. I was quite surprised to hear strong and correct accents from the entire cast, and feel that they must have worked hard to make sure this was done appropriately.
The main female character of the show is Fiona, played by Katherine Trent. Trent has a magnificent voice, and as she begun to sing “Waiting for My Dearie,” I was quite impressed with the clear tone and the way her voice carried throughout the theatre. It was at that point that I realized there were no microphones on stage, and that the cast was using natural projection, which made me even further impressed by Trent. The songs the character Fiona sings in Brigadoon are quite challenging in range, and it can be difficult for even accomplished singers to keep the volume necessary. However, I never struggled to hear, understand, or enjoy Trent’s singing.
Another strong aspect of this show was the choreography, which I first noticed during “Bonnie Jean.” I have had the opportunity to attend several traditional Scottish festivals and other productions where I have witnessed traditional Scottish folk dancing, and I felt that the dancing in Draper Historic Theatre’s production was quite true to traditional Scottish forms. The cast had certainly spent many hours rehearsing and perfecting these steps. I continued to feel the same about subsequent dance numbers such as the “Wedding Dance” the “Sword Dance” and pretty much anytime the cast began to dance. Torri Adams deserves a great deal of praise for her role as choreographer in this production.
I was also impressed with Katelyn Johnson, who played Meg Brockie. As with many traditional musicals of the era of Brigadoon, there is often have a main plot and a small subplot. The subplot of Meg looking for the “Love of My Life” was quite amusing, and Johnson had a strong voice to carry that song the way it was meant to be sung. Another thing I enjoyed about Johnson’s performance was her use of comedic timing and facial and body animation to portray her emotions. It was easy to believe that she was truly searching for love and doing just what her father had told her to do.
Jeremy Heaps played Tommy Albright, the American who comes into Brigadoon and finds much more than a town. Heaps had what is sometimes the most difficult assignment is shows like this: he had to sing the most popular song with Johnson. As he began to sing “Almost Like Being in Love,” I knew that director Nancy Jensen had made the right casting decisions, and I enjoyed chemistry between Heaps and Johnson. This chemistry continued throughout the show, both in dialogue and song, enough that the ending seemed quite believable.
The only thing that I wish the Draper Theatre had done in order to make this production even better was to have a larger orchestra. I know this can be difficult in small community theatres, and with only three musicians (Larry White on drums, Danica Bauer on bass, and Nancy Jensen on piano), it was easy to notice tiny mistakes that would somewhat distract from the performance. However, overall the music was lovely, and I truly loved the addition of the bagpipes during the wedding scene. I did not see a credit in the program for which cast member played the bagpipes, but I can say that it was done well.
I encourage anyone in the Draper area to take and evening and catch this fine production. It’s an sweet musical well performed in an intimate space, which leads to a magical evening.