Monday, July 29, 2019

Review: 'Brigadoon' a delightful treat at the new Fellowship Cultural Arts Center

The Trilogy Repertory current production is the delightful fantasy musical Learner and Loewe’s  “Brigadoon.” This past weekend they presented the inaugural event at the new, very impressive Fellowship Cultural Arts Center located at Fellowship Village in Basking Ridge.  As of August1st they will be performing at their longtime venue, the Bernards Township Plays in the Park until the 10th.

“Brigadoon” centers on the improbable love story of an American visitor to the Highlands of Scotland and a beautiful local lass. What sets this musical apart from so many today is the beautiful romantic score.  Some songs have become American standards, including “The Heather on the Hill,” “Come to Me, Bend to Me” and the widely recorded “It’s Almost Like Being in Love.” It was Lerner and Loewe’s first big hit, followed  by the blockbuster musicals  “My Fair Lady,” “Camelot,” and  “Gigi.”

The Trilogy production is beautifully directed by company veteran, and president,  Jaye Barre, with music direction by Joseph Lesky, and choreography by Jill Karolina Cookingham.  Ms. Barre has assembled a particularly fine cast; led by David Rittenhouse, Joseph Schmidt, Jessica Albano, Claire Dempsey, Owen McKenna and Bridget Lynn .

The plot:  Two Americans, Tommy Albright (David Rittenhouse) and Jeff Douglas (Joseph Schmidt), are on a hunting holiday in Scotland, when they get lost in a dense forest. They come upon a village not on the map. There, they meet the kind and friendly residents of Brigadoon including the beautiful Fiona MacLaren (Jessica Albano). It is love at first sight between Fiona and this strange man from America, Tommy.  Fiona’s friend Meg (Claire Dempsey) is also very interested in Jeff, though that attraction is a bit less reciprocated. Fiona asks Tommy to accompany her to her younger sister Jean’s (Bridget Lynn) wedding to local boy Charlie Dalrymple (Owen McKenna). There, Tommy is introduced to Fiona’s father Andrew (Chuck Pisano) and enjoys the lively festivities with the people of the village. However, things take a dramatic turn when Harry Beaton (Tim Amalfitano) strikes out angrily, frustrated that Jean, the woman he loves, has chosen someone else. He threatens to leave Brigadoon, which seems to terrify everyone. When Tommy asks why the town fears someone leaving, Fiona takes him to the mysterious Mr. Lundie (Bob Vaias), who explains the magical secret of Brigadoon.  Tommy has an impossible choice: remain in Brigadoon with Fiona or return to his life in New York where he is engaged to be married to Jane Ashton (Caroline McKenna). His choice? See the play!

“Brigadoon” premiered on Broadway in 1947 and ran for over 500 performances. It was adapted into a successful movie in 1954, starring Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse, and an Emmy winning television special version in 1966 starring Robert Goulet and Peter Falk.  The idea actually comes from a German folk tale, but in 1947, just two years after the defeat of  Nazi Germany, the setting was moved to Scotland.

The leads are all fine voiced, with Jessica Albano giving a standout performance as Fiona. She is a fine actress (excellent Scottish ‘burr’) with a  gorgeous  superior voice.  David Rittenhouse nicely plays the conflicted Tommy. He has several beautiful duets  with  Jessica Albano, with the now classic “Amost Like Being In Love” being an audience favorite. (Photo above right)
In regard to the Scottish accent, the players are surprisingly spot-on. (Side note: There is no one accent, it varies throughout the country, e.g. Glasgow has a somewhat crude, harsh accent, whereas the Capital of Edinburgh has a softer, gentle, refined accent).

Claire Dempsey is excellent as Meg. She impressively nails her musical numbers; “Love of My Life” and “My Mother’s Wedding Day.” Owen McKenna is a handsome, kilt wearing Charlie. He also nails his big number “I’ll Go Home With Bonnie Jean.” Bridget Lynn as the bride, Jean has several winning dance numbers (Top photo center with Owen McKenna).
The ensemble includes: Nicole Aulicino, Nancy Bart, Caitlyn Costello, Steven Fulda, Paige Hann, Harry Hess, Melissa Johnson, Emma Marsters, Kristie McGrath, Germaine McGrath, Glenston Miranda, Jason Procaccini, Kaitlyn Reiser, Jaidyn Riley, Jeslyn Wheeless, and Caila Yarwood.
The fine production crew includes; stage manager McKenna Moore; lighting Michael Wolff; sound Chris Wolff; costumes Kathleen Dempsey and Beth Berger.
In regard to the new Fellowship Cultural Arts Center, we look forward to the other productions set for this first season. The Trilogy group returns in September with “The Fantastiks,” The Centenary Stage Company’s wonderful comedy “Nunsense” will play in October (read our review); the NJ Ballet perform in November.  The New Jersey Festival Orchestra will ring in the new year on January 1st with a celebration of Broadway classics.  Come February, the critically acclaimed Light Opera of New Jersey will present the comic operetta  “Die Fledermaus.” This a much needed addition to the performing venues in the greater Basking Ridge, Bernardsville, Far Hills area. Note: It is open to all, with free parking, and two on-site restaurants.
   Reviewed by Rick Busciglio  July 28, 2019 

Here are a few photos of the new theatre:

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