Theater Review: ‘Brigadoon’ appears splendidly at Muhlenberg College
It’s easy to see why The Princeton Review 2019 edition of “The Best 384 Colleges” ranked Muhlenberg College Theatre and Dance Department No. 9 for “Best College Theater,” placing the program among the Top 12 in the United States in 10 of the past 11 years.
You need to look no further to see why the accolades are deserved than Muhlenberg College Theatre and Dance Department’s splendid production of “Brigadoon,” a showcase for Muhlenberg student talent and the department’s expertise, continuing through Nov. 4, Empie Theatre, Baker Center for the Arts, Muhlenberg College, Allentown. The show was seen opening night, Oct. 26, for this review.
The production rises to the occasion of the Scottish village that materializes for a day every 100 years to confound the skeptics, among them, Tommy (Julian Mone) and Jeff (John Capocasale), two New Yorkers whose hunting trip in the Scottish Highlands takes on a whole other dimension.
Tommy is smitten with Fiona (K. Cheyanne Leid) and doesn’t want to leave even though his fiancee, Jane (Candice Belina), awaits back in Manhattan. Jeff is waylayed by Meg (Jessie Kuehne).
Meanwhile, preparations are underway for the wedding of Charlie (Adam Cantor) and Jean (Heather Dutton), with Harry (Tommy Gedrich) as her spurned suitor, despite that Maggie (Emily Forster) is devoted to him.
With book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe (the team responsible for Broadway’s “Camelot,” “ Gigi,” “My Fair Lady” and “Paint Your Wagon”) and original dances created by Agnes DeMille, the Muhlenberg College production is directed by Charles Richter with Choreographer Karen Dearborn and Musical Director Ed Bara.
The 21-piece orchestra conducted by Bara is big in sound, but not overpowering, with delicate balance for the ballads. Sound Designer is Ian Scot.
The choral singing in the opening “Prologue” and throughout by The Company is exhilarating. There are 45 in the cast.
The dancing, full of leaps and mid-air twirls, is something to behold. Dearborn gets particularly spirited performances in the highland fling, sword dance and funeral dance, the latter memorable for an interior monologue expressed beautifully by Forster in step, gesture and body.
Fight Choreographer is Michael G. Chin. Dialect Designer Troy Dwyer does excellent and convincing work with the actors.
Scenic Designer Curtis Dretsch has created a gestural world of fantasy and realistic place with a few key set pieces, drops and scrims, augmented by Lighting Designer Zach Weeks, who washes scenes in deep purple, twilight blue and dreamlike hues.
Costume Designer Rebecca Lustig outfits the cast in authentic-looking garb, including a platoon of tartan kilts for the males.
Richter brings the best out in the talented Muhlenberg College students, many of whom may further their careers on Broadway and at professional theaters around the country as have many Muhlenberg College theater and dance alumni.
Among the musical’s outstanding vocal numbers are “Waitin’ For My Dearie” by Leid and the Women’s Vocal Ensemble, “I’ll Go Home With Bonnie Jean” by Cantor and The Company, “The Heather On The Hill” by Mone and Leid, and “Come To Me, Bend To Me” by Cantor, Dutton and the Women’s Dance Ensemble.
Of course, the showstopper in “Brigadoon” is “Almost Like Being In Love,” an American Songbook standard, rendered like Broadway pros by Mone and Leid. Mone also reveals his extraordinary voice in “There But For You Go I.” Mone and Leid reunite for the delicate yet intense “From This Day On.”
The Muhlenberg College Theatre and Dance Department makes many magical productions appear on its stages in Allentown’s West End Theater District. See the rapturous “Brigadoon” before it disappears into the mists of memorable theater-goiing.
Tickets: Muhlenberg College Department of Theatre and Dance box office, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 W. Chew St., Allentown; muhlenberg.edu/theatre; 484-664-3333.