An enchanting escape from reality

The Baltimore Sun

Lerner and Loewe's Brigadoon describes a mythical village in which 18th-century folks wake up for only one day after sleeping 100 years. Reckoning in performing arts time, one might say nine years between performances in Annapolis equals a "Brigadoon" century.

In February 2000, Annapolis Chorale music director J. Ernest Green brought Brigadoon to Maryland Hall's stage in what he recalls as "only the second musical in our 'Broadway in Annapolis' series."

When Brigadoon debuted on Broadway in 1947, it marked musical team Lerner and Loewe's first success and was followed by blockbusters My Fair Lady in 1956 and Camelot in 1960. In Brigadoon, composer Frederick Loewe and lyricist Allan Jay Lerner gave musical life to a legend about the mythical village in Scotland.

It is the story of American tourists Tommy Albright and Jeff Douglas, who lose their way in Scotland and discover Brigadoon, a town stuck in the 1700s whose residents seem dressed for a fair when Tommy and his cynical sidekick Jeff arrive on the day the village comes alive, which is also the wedding day of Jean McLaren and Charlie Dalrymple.

Jean's would-be lover, Harry Beaton, is heartbroken over her wedding and tries to leave the village - a forbidden act. Anyone who leaves the village breaks the enchantment, causing Brigadoon to disappear. The townspeople, along with Charlie and Tommy pursue Harry.

Meanwhile, Tommy has fallen in love with bride Jean's older sister Fiona and wants to stay with her in Brigadoon. Convinced that Brigadoon is only a dream, Jeff persuades Tommy to return to New York with him. Back home Tommy is no longer interested in his fiancee, Jane Ashton. Breaking off their engagement, Tommy prepares to return to Brigadoon.

Jeff is friend enough to accompany Tommy back to Brigadoon and finds nothing where the town once stood. Tommy sees town gatekeeper Mr. Lundie coming across the bridge to meet him. Certain of his sincerity, Mr. Lundie allows Tommy to enter Brigadoon to find Fiona.

At a rehearsal in his Severna Park home last week, music director Green explained why he was drawn to this show.

"The whole concept is an escape from reality," Green said. "The old German legend that Brigadoon is based on lends the premise of two outsiders wandering into a place where 18th-century culture is preserved. No pun intended, this show is a sleeper that gets better as you get into it. The story is told in beautiful music. The lead soloists have wonderful songs, and, equally important to me, there's great music for the chorus and for the orchestra."

Baritone Troy Clark, who plays the male lead Tommy, added, "You might first think the show is saccharine, but then you discover the reason for shutting off these people is to protect their way of life from less moral influences. The show has a powerful message: that anything is possible through love; and we have great songs to sing."

To illustrate his point, Clark sang a few bars of "Almost Like Being in Love," as if to support a prediction by his co-star, Ashleigh Rabbitt Sekoski, about "swooning when listening to Troy sing this music."

An earlier phone interview with soprano Sekoski in New York yielded her description of Brigadoon as "a love story in the classic sense, almost Disneyesque. There are some religious overtones, but not explicit ones. The miracle of Brigadoon comes as a result of a covenant made with God. I read the meaning to be if you love someone enough, miracles can happen and anything is possible."

Looking forward to the Annapolis production next weekend, she added, "Fiona may become my favorite character to play. She is from the 18th century but has the forthrightness of a modern-day woman. She is completely honest and has the courage to express herself in the moment."

About working with Green, Sekoski said, "As a singer and as an actress, I find working with Ernie Green to be pure joy. Not many conductors understand singers the way Ernie does." About the Annapolis Chorale, she added, "I could not work with a more supportive and musical group of people."

Besides Clark and Sekoski, the Annapolis Chorale's Brigadoon features Tom Magette as bridegroom Charlie, Eliza Toomey as his bride, Jean, and Molly Moore Green as brash Meg, who pursues Jeff, played by Tom Newbrough, in Brigadoon.

Performances are 7:30 p.m. Friday and 8 p.m. Saturday at Maryland Hall. Tickets are $34 to $37 for adults and $12 for students, including a $3-per-ticket service charge. For tickets, call 410-280-5640 or www.marylandhall.org.

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