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Review: Brigadoon

BY JUSTUS FLAIR | SEPTEMBER 25, 2014 5:00 AM

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Sitting in the fourth of seven rows, staring at the light trees and mountains streaked with purples and pinks in center stage, I felt a bit out of place. The crowd was dominated by seniors, scattered with a few younger individuals waiting to see a sibling or girlfriend take the stage, perhaps.

At the sides of the stage, pale colors were swirled together surrounding the mountains, an abstract representation of the wilderness. With the stone steps leading off stage left and the bare decorations of only two camouflage-covered rocks, it was clear we weren't in modern times. We were in Brigadoon.

If you venture to the Johnson County Fairgrounds for Iowa City Community Theater's Brigadoon at 7:30 p.m. Friday or Saturday or 2 p.m. Sept. 28, be prepared to commit yourself; the show is two and a half hours long. Yes, it's a great show well-worth the time you put in, but I won't kid you that the time flies by. The music alone makes the show worth seeing.

Entering the performance space, the orchestra is visible on stage right, instruments at the ready. The music is gorgeous, complicated, and lively, drawing you into this crazy world before the show has even begun. I was so invested in watching their playing, a bit starstruck at the skill displayed, that I worried the musicians would distract me from the play itself. There was no need for the concern, though, because the actors pulled me right into the script.

Brigadoon is an odd show.

"It's basically about a town in Scotland that appears every 100 years and how two Americans stumble into that town," director Josh Sazon said.

Written and set in 1937, this means the town is actually from 1737. As is customary in the magical world of musicals, there's no language difference or misunderstandings between the groups two centuries apart, so a love story quickly evolves.

More interesting than those young lovers though, is the young desperate-for-a-lover Meg Brockie (Katherine Boothroyd), who sets her sights on Jeff Douglas (Roger Phelps), one of the visiting Americans. Despite his strongest objections, she is determined to make him hers, leading us to the gem of the show, "The Love of My Life."

The talent of the singers is astounding. With ease, reaching notes that most people can only pretend to hit in the shower, they all have a casual air about them, as though they truly were just frolicking through the woods and singing about their lives. The acting, though, lagged behind the singing a touch. It is not to say that any of the actors are bad, because they weren't; ­there just seemed to be a bit of a disconnect among their styles. While some actors were very much in the school of realism throughout the musical, others had more of a classical presenting style, turning out and addressing the audience rather than their partner. Neither was better than the other, but I would have preferred consistency.

And, of course, no musical is complete without a dance break. Clearly designed to reflect more traditional dances of centuries past, most of the cast was involved, displaying the talents of each individual. With a cast of 30, choreographing such dances must have taken quite some time.
Rehearsing every Monday through Thursday, 7 to 10 p.m. for seven weeks seemed to be sufficient. One of the challenges of community theater, Sazon said, was coordinating everyone's schedules, noting the obvious: "People have their own lives."

Another hardship? The venue.

"This space is not a theater per se," Sazon said. "It was not intended as a performance space. Trying to transform a show that was designed for a proscenium space, such as the Englert, is a challenge."
They accomplished it well, though, usng the relatively small space with alternating backdrops and a sparse set, letting the words and music do all the talking.

The real question, though, is not whether I enjoyed the show, it's whether Sazon accomplished his goal for the production.

"At the very least, I hope people have a good time, that they come out humming the music," he said.
Considering I have the soundtrack playing on YouTube right now, I can merely say well-played, Brigadoon, well-played.


THEATER
What: Brigadoon
Where: Iowa City Community Theater, 4261 Oak Crest Hill Road S.E. (Johnson County Fairgrounds)
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sept. 28
Admission: $10 to $18


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