'Brigadoon' enchanting

We're approaching the dog days of August, my air conditioning isn't working properly and, still, I'm spending a lot of time whistling happily.

What I've been whistling are songs from two of the wonderful musicals crafted by lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe, whose works are de rigueur from one end of the Annapolis Historic District to the other.


At Summer Garden Theatre across from City Dock, Professor Henry Higgins is busily at work elevating the horrific speech patterns of Eliza Doolittle in the classic My Fair Lady. (That explains why "Wouldn't It Be Loverly," "Get Me to the Church on Time" and "On the Street Where You Live" are emanating from my puckered lips with such frequency.)

And this weekend at Key Auditorium on the campus of St. John's College, the Talent Machine will conclude its run of Brigadoon, the tale of love and fantasy set in the Scottish Highlands.


The mysterious village of Brigadoon vanishes for a century with the setting sun, the better to avoid the ravages of the modern world. But that lush Lerner and Loewe score with its tuneful extravagances including "The Heather on the Hill" and "Almost Like Being in Love" will never disappear.

Most admirable about this Brigadoon is that the Talent Machine folks have marshaled all the show-biz pizazz bequeathed them by their founder, the late Bobbi Smith, into a production where the oomph is in service to the integrity of the piece.

So, for all the eye-popping diverse dance genres represented (ballet, modern, tap and Scottish folk, for starters), every step is in context and nothing seems overdone.

The same goes for the kinetics on the set. Rocks whirl and bodies leap, but everything makes perfect sense as opposed to, say, Summer Garden's Evita, produced earlier this season, where the characters spent a fair amount of time chasing themselves around the stage for no discernible dramatic reason.

All the well-balanced components in the world would have gone for naught had the talent level not been up to snuff, but not to worry there, either. This Brigadoon attracted the most talented young cast in years.

Andrew Sonntag proves himself a first-class song and dance man as Tommy, the idealistic American tempted by love to forsake his New York life and share in the miracle of Brigadoon forever. Vocally, his upper register is a bit of a work in progress, but his command of the stage is the real thing, and he moves beautifully.

Tommy's alter-ego, the cynical, wise-cracking Jeff, is crusty to the core, courtesy of Steve Love, who has a true flair for comedy, especially when fighting off the blandishments of Meg Brockie, the brassy lassie played to the hilt by Karley Willocks.

For lovely singing and dancing, there's Darren Biggart as Charlie, the affable Scotsman about to wed his bonnie Jean. His tenor voice is open and clear, and his graceful movements a joy to watch. The catch-and-spin move he executes with the beautiful Elena Crall, playing his intended, brought "aahs" of contentment from last Thursday's audience.


Also notable is Jonathan Nuckols, a superb dancer who is a bundle of malevolent energy as Harry, Jean's jilted suitor, whose threatened escape from Brigadoon would end the miracle of the town's survival. The resulting chase scene, which so often looks a mess in teen-age productions, is the dramatic highlight here, thanks largely to Nuckols' ability to convey character through movement.

Most luminous is Kerry Dietrich as Fiona. She is so graceful and lovely in the role that Tommy would have to be the world's biggest knucklehead not to chuck it all and devote his life to her. Dietrich has grown up on the Talent Machine stage, and as she leaves it to study theater arts in college, I tip my cap to her artistry.

The cap also tips to Bobby Smith (no relation to Bobbi), Brigadoon's director, music director Nicole Roblyer and choreographer Renee Meyer for the style and color they brought to the stage.

Enchantment is the name of the game in this show, and from every quarter of the cast - including the bagpiper - they got it. Bravo.

Talent Machine's "Brigadoon" plays at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Key Auditorium. The closing matinee occurs at 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: 410-956-0512.