BRIGADOON

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Book & Lyrics by

ALAN JAY LERNER

Music by

FREDERICK LOEWE

Staged by

ROBERT LEWIS
First produced at the Ziegfeld Theatre on March 13, 1947, with David Brooks as "Tommy", George Keane as "Jeff" and Marion Belle as "Fiona".

Described by its authors as "a whimsical musical fantasy", Brigadoon is set in a magic Scottish village which comes out of the Highland mists once every hundred years, only to disappear after one day. Two American tourists -- Tommy Albright and Jeff Douglas -- on a visit to Scotland get lost in a forest. They hear distant voices ("Brigadoon"), then see a village come hazily into view. Entering it, they come to MacConnachy Square, in Brigadoon, where a gay fair is taking place. Andrew MacLaren has come there with his two daughters, Fiona and Jean; the latter is soon to be married to Charlie Dalrymple, much to the displeasure of Harry Beaton, who wants to marry her himself. Meg Brockie, a brash young woman, expresses surprise that Fiona is not jealous of her sister, since becoming a bride is quite an event and achievement in Brigadoon. Fiona explains by giving Meg a clue to her personal philosophy ("Waitin' for My Dearie"). When Jeff and Tommy are observed all the activities in the square stop short, for they are not only strangers but strangers from a distant land. Tommy is immediately attracted to Fiona. When the latter announces she is going to gather heather for her sister's wedding, Tommy insists he be allowed to accompany her. At first Fiona declines, but she grows more amenable after Tommy has sung a plaintive tune to her ("Heather on the Hill"). They now go off, hand in hand.

Later, in the MacLaren home, Jean is preparing to pack in preparation for her imminent wedding. The bridegroom, Charlie, comes to inscribe his name in the MacLaren family album, after which he sings of his intense longing for his bride ("Come to Me, Bend to Me"). Then Fiona and Tommy return from their expedition, late and happy. When Jeff appears, Tommy confides his feelings for Fiona ("Almost Like Being in Love"). Jeff and Tommy come upon the family album. Glancing through it, they remark the peculiar coincidence that a hundred years ago, on this very day, a Fiona MacLaren was married to a Charlie Dalrymple. It is their first clue that something eerie is happening around them. Fiona refuses to enlighten them, so they seek out one of the venerable citizens of Brigadoon, Mr. Lundie, and learn from him of the strange history of this town that lives one day every hundred years.

The wedding ceremony now takes place, with the festive townspeople enjoying songs and dances. Suddenly Harry Beaton arrives, determined to prevent the marriage from taking place. He lunges at the bridegroom with his knife, but, fortunately, Tommy arrests his hand. As Harry flees, Jeff trips him; Harry falls on his head and is instantly killed.

When the wedding is over, Tommy confesses to Fiona he loves her dearly ("There But For You Go I"). Because of Fiona he is determined to stay in Brigadoon, come what may. But Jeff convinces him that it is impossible for Tommy to live in a dream, that reality dictates Tommy must return home to New York and marry his fiancée, Jane Ashton. Sadly, Tommy realizes the wisdom of Jeff's words. He bids Fiona a tender farewell ("From This Day On") and leaves Brigadoon with Jeff.

Back in New York, Jane Ashton upbraids Tommy for having failed to "come to me" as soon as he had returned from Europe. The words "come to me" strike a responsive chord with Tommy. In a mist he sees Fiona before him in Brigadoon. This vision convinces him that he must break with Jane Ashton once and for all. It also convinces him that he must return to Scotland. With Jeff once again as his companion Tommy is back in the forest outside Brigadoon. Somewhere in the mist, whispers Tommy, there is a girl he desperately wants but knows he will never get. Jeff inquires if this is the reason Tommy has made the long journey back to Scotland. Tommy now reveals he simply had to convince himself that Fiona and Brigadoon belong not to the real but to the dream world. Suddenly Tommy hears voices in the distance, and sees Mr. Lundie approaching him. He takes Tommy by the hand to lead him back to Brigadoon. "You see," explains Mr. Lundie, "love can do anything -- even miracles." Waving farewell to Jeff, Tommy follows Mr. Lundie into the Highland mists.

Brigadoon was a red-letter day for the American theatre, if only because it was the first major Broadway success by Lerner and Loewe, the words-and-music duo that later created the history-making My Fair Lady. But even if My Fair Lady had never been written, Brigadoon would still have earned for its authors an honoured place in the American musical theatre. The Drama Critics Circle singled it out as the best play of the season, the first time a musical had been thus honoured. And there was sound reason for this choice. Brigadoon is one of the most delightful fantasies that the American musical stage has known -- fresh and innovative in its characterizations, dialogue and lyrics; utterly enchanting in its melodies. As Brook Atkinson said of it: "The incantation is complete and easy."

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This document was originally published in The Complete Book of Light Opera. Mark Lubbock. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1962. pp. 894-6.

FURTHER STUDIES:

  • Camelot - A synopsis of the musical by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe.
  • My Fair Lady - A synopsis and brief history of the musical by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe.
  • Brigadoon - A brief history of the musical.
  • Purchase Sheet Music from all your favorite musicals!
  • Search eBay! for BRIGADOON collectibles

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