Saturday, July 27, 2002

Brigadoon (Porthouse/KSU)

Well-conceived 'BRIGADOON' closes succesful Porthouse season

Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe are icons of musical theatre. Their musicals center on the theme of the perfect place, the perfect time, the perfect love story. Think of CAMELOT, MY FAIR LADY, and, of course, BRIGADOON.

Brigadoon was the first big hit for the magical team. The story is based on a tale by Frederick Gerstacker. The original story centered on the mythical German village of Germelshausen that fell under a magical spell. The play transforms the setting to a Scottish village named Brigadoon which remains unchanging and invisible except for one day every hundred years, when it can be seen and visited by outsiders. Visitors might be allowed to stay, but if any residents ever left, the spell would be broken -- and that would be the end of them all. Two American tourists, Tommy Albright and Jeff Douglas stumble upon the misty town. Tommy soon falls in love with Fiona, a local lass, and must decide whether to return to the real world or remain in Brigadoon forever. The title comes from the word "Brigadoonery" which describes anything that is grotesquely Scottish-like, but well-intentioned.

The Porthouse production is very well-intentioned. Director Terri Kent has assembled a talented cast, has a clear concept of where she wants the production to go, and has created a well-conceived though slightly flawed production.

As Tommy, Lorain County’s Raymond Ewers has Broadway leading-man good looks and possesses a pleasant singing voice. He needs to sell his songs more, stressing the meaning of the words, not just singing them. Mary Klaehn is enchanting as Fiona. She has a marvelous singing voice and develops a clear character. May Ann Black, a Rue McClanahan look and act-alike, portrays Meg, the female comedy relief. She has a fine sense of timing, but the clever words to her songs are often lost between the heavy brogue and lack of crisp articulation. Frank Kosik, as Tommy’s friend Jeff, brings the right New Yorker touch to the role. Lauren Marshall and Lisa Kuhnen display finesse in two dance solos. Adam Day Howard’s proficiency as a bagpiper is astounding.

Scenic Designer Raynette Halvorsen Smith’s set is impressive, but turns out to cause problems. It is so massive that it leaves performers little room for movement. Choreographer John Crawford has conceived some wonderful dance numbers, especially considering the limited space with which he had to work.

Kent has done a good job of making sure that the chorus is involved in the production. She might, however, urge some of the members to cut down their distracting overacting and preplanned facial moves and gestures. A problem was also present in a pivotal death scene. Since the body is lying on the floor within easy view, when he was pronounced dead, due to the actor’s obviously heavy breathing after a furious chase scene, the audience giggled. Placing the body on a level, or blocking him from the audience would have eliminated this problem. Small problems in an otherwise audience-pleasing production.

Capsule judgement: 'BRIGADOON 'brings to an end a very impressive season at Porthouse. Terri Kent and her staff deserve a curtain call for taking this Kent State University summer project to a higher level than has been experienced in the past. Kudos!