Many musicals have some fairytale or fantasy element. How many versions of Cinderella, by any other name, have been mounted on Broadway?
Brigadoon, running through this coming Sunday at the glorious Woodminster Amphitheatre, is one of the few which sustains a little of the dreamlike sense of fairytale throughout the show, supported effortlessly by grace, humor and charm.
It’s the tale of two American sports hunters out in the field in Scotland, who stumble on a strange, old-fashioned Highland village not on the maps, and get swept up in the customs of its hospitable yet pithy (Scottish, after all, if Broadway Scottish) populace, especially a wedding brought about by a mysterious “miracle,” contested by a malcontent suitor, threatening to quite literally void that miracle, upsetting the existence of the little place out of another time.
There’s a certain amount of hocus-pocus, amicably explained by the humorous Mr. Lundie, the village schoolmaster expertly portrayed by Stu Kiltsner in his 23rd Woodminster show: the magic is predicated on faith, which as Mr. Lundie remarks, is just like love, which has everything to do with musicals.
A very good cast has been assembled at Woodminster; the quality of performance is apparent from the start, from the lead players through the ensemble, which forms the chorus for the sprightly production numbers, choreographed by Jody Jaron, who danced at Woodminster in every production for a decade starting in 1968. It’s Jaron’s seventh show here as choreographer, her daughter distinguishing herself on stage in Brigadoon.
The dances mix up a potpourri of Caledonian specialties—a sword dance, bits and pieces of stepdancing and swirling kilts—with more balletic form and Martha Graham- and Agnes de Mille-ish touches. A bagpiper skirls his way onstage, up from the 16-piece orchestra (conducted by Brandon Adams), for the tableau of a funeral that stops the spectacle of the wedding feast, when Meg Jaron, as Maggie Anderson, dances a solemn elegy to her unrequited love, Harry Beaton (Todd Schlader, dance captain, of the Schlader family who has produced musicals here since 1967, Joel Schlader directing this show.)
Some of the performers will be familiar to Woodminster regulars, including Susan Himes Powers, veteran of more than a half dozen productions, singing and playing Fiona brightly; Scott Grinthal, in his 11th Woodminster production, a stalwart presence (ironically enough) as vacillating romantic interest; Tommy (his stepson figures in the ensemble); the jaunty, sweet-voiced bridegroom Michael Foreman as Charlie Dalrymple—and a splendidly comic Juliet Heller, a 42nd Street Moon vet, in her second season here as the ebullient, man-hungry Meg Brockie, enumerating to drowsy, guarded Yank Jeff Douglas (Robert Moorhead, a 35-year Woodminster player) the multitudinous faces that have appeared to her as “The Love of My Life.”
The action moves easily from romantic—or comic—intimacy to spectacular festivities, even evoking a lonely song of love on a stone bridge—heard in a New York barroom. Patrick Toebe’s set, lit by Mike Barney, easily accomodates such scene shifting, its forests and glens below steep green slopes (reminiscent of the coast a few miles west, over Tamalpais or San Bruno Mountain) looming up behind the action onstage, with the real-life spectacle of the Bay Area lit up over the old WPA Amphitheatre’s rim, after daylight dies on the redwoods crowning “The Hights,” as Bohemian poet Joaquin Miller dubbed the site, heart of the park bearing his name.
Early on in the show, when Meg sinks her hooks into dapper Mr. Douglas’ hunting jacket sleeve, village weaver Archie Beaton (another Woodminster multishow vet, David Flack) offers him—for sale, of course—a pair of plaid trousers, casually remarking that a jaunt with Miss Brockie might result in his own being rent—by a thistle, of course.
Like its own practical haberdasher, Woodminster Summer Musicals, in its last show this season, delivers the goods with Lerner & Loewe’s 62 year-old hit—and not just woolens.
7 p.m. Thursday and Sunday and at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Sept. 10–13 at Woodminster Amphitheatre, 3300 Joaquin Miller Rd., Oakland. $25-$40 (call for discount information for children and seniors). 531-9597. www.woodminster.com.