Cottage Grove, Scene & Heard

Delightful story, performances mark ‘aged’ dialogue in ‘Brigadoon’ at Cottage Theatre

COTTAGE GROVE – Historical Scotland. Time travel. Romance.

It is impossible to hear these words and not think of the popular books or TV series, “Outlander.” However, this is actually a description of “Brigadoon,” a play written by Alan Jay Lerner with music by Frederick Loewe, produced by Cottage Theatre and directed by Pamela Lehan-Siegel.

Unlike “Outlander,” this play omits the gratuitous sex and violence, meaning that it is an experience that the whole family can enjoy. Also, the idea of time distortion might be more accurate than time travel.

The premise of the plot revolves around two American tourists/hunters who stumble upon a Scottish village called “Brigadoon” that feels like it is from another time. Tourist Tommy falls in love with a villager named Fiona, while Jeff thwarts the advances of Meg. Unfortunately, due to a magic spell, no one can leave “Brigadoon.” This mysterious village is able to exist only in our world one day every 100 years. Anyone who succeeds in breaking the spell will cause “Brigadoon” to perish, along with its residents.

In case you are thinking that the creators of “Brigadoon” copied the premise of Diana Gabaldon’s popular series, this play was written in 1947 and became a motion picture in 1954. “Outlander” was first published in 1991. Both authors were inspired by Scottish folk tales, but took these ideas in different directions. The idea of Brigadoon is that there is a village that exists outside of time. The ideas of time “distortion” can be seen in tales like “Rip Van Winkle,” “Sleeping Beauty,” and the more obscure tale of “Germelshausen,” a German village with a similar habit of appearing only once every hundred years. And just in case you are wondering, there is a village called Brig o’ Doon in Scotland.

It makes sense that when authors are inspired by similar mythos, there will be some overlapping elements — which means there will be a crossover of fans from one book/movie/play to the other. This is definitely the right year to produce a play about Scottish time magic and romance with “Outlander’s” popularity.

Director and choreographer Pamela Lehan-Siegel explained that she was introduced to the play as a child when she saw it on stage with her mother. She was inspired by the message that love transcends time. Lehan-Siegal quoted from the play, “With love, anything is possible, even miracles.”

Highlights of the play include the sword dance at the wedding, Meg’s song “The Love of My Life.” Lexi Chipman was hilarious in her flirty rendition of the song, as well as the way she hammed up the character. The entire cast was spot on in their singing and dancing, and the facial expressions captured the mood and essence of each song. Joseph Harris, who played Charlie Dalrymple, had unexpected vocal range and could really hit the high notes. Jessica Rossi playing Fiona MacLaren captured the feel of a 1940s and ’50s musical combined with opera singing. Her ability to project did not require a microphone. (Earplugs recommended: they did not detract from the intensity of her singing, and it was very handy for the bagpipes later on.) It was fun to see the way Lehan-Siegal infused Scottish dances into the choreography, reflecting the research she did of the culture.

The costumes were eye candy. The costume designer, Rhonda Turnquist, did her historical and regional research and did a fabulous job with the costumes.

When asked what she changed from traditional Scottish garb, Turnquist explained that she made the skirts fuller to accommodate dancing. She also added that she “made the men wear black briefs. They couldn’t go commando.”

In case you aren’t familiar, traditionally one doesn’t wear anything under a kilt!

When “Brigadoon” first premiered in 1947, the ideas resonated with a post-WWII audience who could relate to villagers who wanted to escape and for everything to stay the same. The director acknowledges that not all the ideas in the play resonate with today’s audiences.

The first time a male character made a chauvinist remark during the play, there were audible gasps and groans in the audience. The repetition of the sexist language and outdated jokes didn’t work for a modern audience. Turnquist said that she “worked to address some of these thematic threads by acknowledging the strength of women, questioning the possibility of escaping evil, and also the power of connecting to the earth.”

I am not sure I saw any of those elements added to the play, so I am not sure what she changed to address the misogyny. The director took creative liberties with the interpretation of the choreography and modernizing the dance, so I am not sure why she didn’t omit those lines or substitute dialogue with humor that would resonate with today’s audience.

I also understand that it is a philosophical debate, whether to change an author’s original text or not, as came to a head last year with the Roald Dahl controversy of making the language of books written in 1960 more inclusive and politically correct. Many do not want to censor art.

Although it is not often addressed, one might argue that erasing sexist language also erases the record of it in our culture, which means we can pretend it didn’t happen. Keeping outdated language from a piece of historical literature serves as a reminder of our past. In the play, Brigadoon is a place that exists outside of time. In our reality, “Brigadoon” is a representation of two eras: the era “Brigadoon” originates from two hundred years ago and 1947, when it was written, capturing the ideals of both eras. Keeping the harsh realities of our past reminds us of the way women were once treated – and how history repeats itself.

That is a different takeaway than the themes of love conquering all that the director intended.

The play shows for the month of April, the last day April 28.

Sarina Dorie is the arts writer for The Chronicle.



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