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  WINDY CITY TIMES

SCOTTISH PLAY SCOTT 'Brigadoon' reappears
by Scott C. Morgan, Windy City Times
2014-06-25

This article shared 3418 times since Wed Jun 25, 2014
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To put it bluntly, out playwright Brian Hill is tampering with a classic. The Goodman Theatre brought him aboard to revise the script for its new production of Brigadoon, the 1947 Broadway musical about a magical Scottish village that reappears for one day every 100 years.

Considering that Brigadoon creators Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner would go on to collaborate on other classics like My Fair Lady and Camelot, Hill knows that he has to tread carefully in his work. And that's even with the blessing of Lerner's daughter, Liza Lerner, who has granted the Goodman creative team permission to revisit and revise Brigadoon for the 21st century.

"I'll admit that it's daunting because I have such a love and respect of this piece," said Hill, adding that it was Jeff Award-winning director/choreographer Rachel Rockwell who specifically requested him to collaborate on her Goodman Theatre debut of Brigadoon after they worked so well on the 2011 musical The Adventures of Pinocchio for Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

"My history with this show goes back to when I was six years old. It was one of the first musicals I ever heard," said Hill, citing a 1957 Brigadoon studio recording featuring Shirley Jones and Jack Cassidy that his Scottish grandmother owned. "I used to listen to it religiously, so it's one of those shows that's in my DNA."

Where Hill is making most of the changes to the show is with the origin story of why Brigadoon disappears and reappears every 100 years. Though the first time disappearance of the town of Brigadoon happens in 1746, there was no mention in the musical of the historic Battle of Culloden from that same year when British forces ruthlessly crushed the Scottish highlanders who were part of the Jacobite Rebellion. As a punishment, the British government banned Scottish family tartans and kilts and set in motion policies that would play a part in the devastating Highland Clearances when several thousands of Scots were forced from their lands.

"Something that really wasn't prevalent in the original was the presence of war," Hill said. "In 1947 when Brigadoon premiered, the Second World War was still very much an open wound for all of America and I think ( Lerner and Loewe ) wrote what they wanted to be an escapist musical."

Hence in the original script for Brigadoon, the town disappears as a way to ward off black magic and witchcraft—quite an ironic premise. And when Brigadoon was originally staged in London in 1949, historians were appeased by the show's exclusion of the Battle of Culloden by having the show's current and flashback dates shifted respectively to 1935 and 1735.

"Now I think ignoring the Battle of Culloden and the Second World War—two things that profoundly affect the characters in our play—both those historical events are very helpful for us now in terms of raising the stakes and giving our characters an absolutely strong reasons to do what they do," said Hill, adding that he has also made the show's hero, Tommy Albright, a WWII veteran. "And frankly to give the town a very, very strong reason for the town to disappear from the face of the earth for another 100 years."

Veteran Chicago-area actor Roger Mueller plays Mr. Lundie in the Goodman's Brigadoon and he's very pleased with the revisions that Hill and Rockwell have made. Though Mueller hasn't previously appeared in a production of the show, he's very familiar with Brigadoon since both of his daughters have starred in it. Abby Mueller ( currently on Broadway in Kinky Boots ) starred as the leading lady Fiona MacLaren in the Marriott Theatre's last revival of Brigadoon, while Jessie Mueller ( the Tony Award-winning star of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical ) starred as the sidekick Meg Brockie in a high school production.

"These changes are really first-rate. People are going to be rather stunned by the new gravity of the show," Mueller said. "It still has the harmony and the light-hearted moments, but even those are kind of fed by an urgency of the situation."

"We want to retain what people love about the show, and that is the magic and the charm and the passion of the piece," Hill said. "The biggest compliment to me is if people come to see the show and didn't notice the ( revisions ) and simply got swept up in the story. That would make me so happy."

Brigadoon runs from Friday, June 27, through Sunday, Aug. 10, at the Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St. Previews run through July 6, with a press opening on Monday, July 7. Regular performances vary, but are largely 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays ( also Tuesdays on July 22 and 29 ), 2 and 7:30 p.m. Thursdays ( no matinee on July 31 ), 8 p.m. Fridays ( no show July 4 ), 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays ( no matinee July 12 ), and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays ( no evening show July 27 ). Tickets are $25-$98 ( subject to change ); call 312-443-3800 or visit www.goodmantheatre.org .

There is also a free public screening of the 1954 film version of Brigadoon starring Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, June 29, at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, 201 E. Randolph St. Visit www.millenniumpark.org or call 312-742-1168.


This article shared 3418 times since Wed Jun 25, 2014
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