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Brigadoon theatre review (Arts Centre, Melbourne)

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The best known song from Lerner and Loewe’s Brigadoon (the 1947 Broadway musical that is not all that well-known anymore) is Almost Like Falling in Love. This might be confusing to modern audiences. Almost like falling in love? So, it’s not the real deal then? Maybe if the song was called, Like, Almost Falling in Love it would make more sense in 2017.

Whatever; logic is best ignored for this ridiculously entertaining fractured fairytale that sees two best friends from New York, Tommy and Jeff, wander into the mists of the Scottish highlands. Their phones fail and they find themselves lost in a mysterious village populated by a band of inbred Scots who are still living in 1717.

So you’re naturally thinking this sounds like the plot of another Netflix series. And why not? The village consists of an enigmatic town leader who looks like Annie Lennox if she hadn’t had her head shaved for 300 years, a buff and perennially shirtless guy in a leather skirt, a nymphomaniac who sells milk by the jug (paging Dr Freud!), and a brooding, touseld haired young man who serves as Brigadoon’s very own Andy Murray. But this Andy’s black Scottish temper finally sees him lose it completely, leading to shocking and violent actions that leave us genuinely jumpy at interval about how things will turn out in the next episode – I mean, act.

Anyone still living who knows the musical might recall the 1954 Hollywood version directed with pre-Luhrmann-esque excess by Vincente Minnelli. It starred Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse who delightfully danced and sang their way among rosy-cheeked munchkins strapped into tartan and stricken smiles.

But this new Production Company staging, a Brigadoon.02 of sorts, is directed with a mature and steady eye by Jason Langley who honours the breezy original with its snappy one-liners, whistle-able tubes and extravagant dance numbers, but finds its darker elements (yes, really) and faster pace without ever tipping into satire or camp.

His creative team – sets, costumes and lighting and projections – has created the claustrophobic world of Brigadoon whose inhabitants fear being dragged into the 21st century – while still drawing out its very generous comedy.

The on-stage orchestra and cast of 30 are uniformly excellent and led by Rohan Browne as Tommy and Genevieve Kingsford as flame-haired Fiona, the village lassie he falls for. Browne has the matinee looks and light as a feather dance moves of a Gene Kelly while Kingsford’s considerable acting chops communicate Fiona’s terror of losing love, now that she’s found it.

Luke Joslin brings an effortless comic timing to his scene-stealing role as Tommy’s sardonic best pal Jeff, while Nancye Hayes as the silver-haired town elder and Elise McCann as the sex-starved Meg, round out a disciplined lead cast who handle the balancing act of comedy and drama with aplomb.

Until November 5 at the State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne. Image by Jeff Busby of Nancye Hayes, Genevieve Kingsford and Rohan Browne.

3 responses to “Brigadoon theatre review (Arts Centre, Melbourne)

  1. The song in question is called ‘Almost Like BEING in Love’, not ‘Almost Like Falling in Love’. Helen Razer, get your facts right!

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