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Enchanting entertainment

'Brigadoon' offers fun, fantasy in Scottish fashion

Posted: Thursday, February 17, 2005

 

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  Harry Beaton, played by Lucas Anderson, performs a sword dance in a rehearsal of Brigadoon. Photo by Jenny Neyman

Tommy Albright, played by Mark Burton, falls in love with Fiona MacLaren, played by Christian Leckwee, during his brief visit to Brigadoon.

Photo by Jenny Neyman

It takes a real man to wear a kilt, especially in Alaska in February.

The Kenai Performers found they have no lack of those, or women, children, singers, dancers, musicians and volunteers, for its musical this year, "Brigadoon," by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe.

With about 80 people, this show has the biggest chorus of any Kenai Performers musical yet, said director Carol Ford.

With all the men who turned out for auditions, Ford had no problem finding performers to fill the show's many male roles, and, as always, there were plenty of women and kids to round out the rest of the cast.

The show has a lot to offer —from the requisite dancing and singing, done in Scottish brogue, to funny dialogue, a memorable score, action, romance and a fanciful plot.

"It's going to be one of the most beautiful shows we've ever done on every level — the people, story, sets, costumes, music — everything is just beautiful," Ford said.

The play is set in the Highlands of Scotland, where two New Yorkers get lost on a hunting trip and stumble across the middle-of-nowhere village of Brigadoon.

Not to be found on any map, the outside world seems to have forgotten Brigadoon, and the residents of Brigadoon seem equally as out of touch with the outside world — as Jeff Douglas (played by Jamie Nelson), the more cynical of the two Americans, finds to his shock that none of the villagers has heard of Jack Daniel's.

The town's hospitality and idyllic beauty charm Jeff's warm-hearted companion, Tommy Albright (played by Mark Burton), but not nearly as much as the town's beautiful Fiona MacLaren (played by Christin Leckwee) does.

As Tommy's romantic feelings grow, his suspicions about the place mount, as well, especially when he finds a Bible saying Fiona and her siblings were born in the 1700s. Finally, the Americans hear the truth — Brigadoon had a blessing put on it that protects it from the influence and evils of the outside world. Brigadoon only becomes visible to outsiders once every 100 years for a single day.

The blessing has a catch —if anyone from Brigadoon crosses the bridge and leaves the town, the enchantment ends. Most in the town wouldn't think of foiling Brigadoon's disappearing act, except one — Harry Beaton.

"The closest thing to a bad guy in Brigadoon is me," said Lucas Anderson, who plays Harry.

 

Dancers villager perform a scene in the musical "Brigadoon" during a rehearsal Monday. The show opens Friday in Kenai.

Photo by Jenny Neyman

Harry yearns for the excitement of the outside world, almost as much as he yearns for Fiona's younger sister, Jean. But when Jean chooses to marry another, Harry finds life in Brigadoon too painful to take and the town's blessing becomes a curse for him.

The townspeople then are faced with the dilemma of finding a way to stop him from leaving.

Meanwhile, Tommy is faced with his own dilemma —giving up Fiona or giving up all ties to his life to stay in Brigadoon and be with her.

Ford said her favorite thing about the show is the story.

"The question is posed, 'What is it that makes life a blessing and what is it that makes life a curse?' This town has a blessing put on it to protect it from the world but in a way it's a trap, they can't get out of if," she said.

What it really comes down to is people's attitudes, Ford said.

The difference is Harry sees the enchantment as a curse, so it becomes one for him, whereas the villagers see it as a blessing and wake up every day feeling thankful for all the positive things life in Brigadoon has to offer.

"I don't think that stories get much deeper than that," Ford said. "It's told in such a sweet, open, honest and beautiful way it makes it an all-around good experience, and it has been for us just preparing it."

Much of the show's sweetness comes from the romantic subplots, like Fiona and Tommy's relationship. Though the characters are smitten by love at first sight — an experience they expound upon in love songs — Ford said they've tried to steer clear of having the relationship seem "smarmy."

Leckwee, who plays Fiona, is new to acting, and said it was as an interesting experience to find and portray genuine emotions for her character.

"It's challenging in the fact that I've never acted before. ... It's a lot harder than I ever though acting was," she said.

 

Brigadoon resident Meg Brockie, played by Ellee Ernst, tries her feminine wiles on the unsuspecting New Yorker, Jeff Douglas, played by Jamie Nelson.

Photo by jenny Neyman

At the same time, Leckwee is a veteran singer and said she can relate to her character.

"I can definitely see what she's waiting for and longing for," Leckwee said.

"I think it is so fun. I love the music in it. ... It's very entertaining and the storyline itself, too — it's got its funny parts, it's romantic, it's just a good story."

It's not all romance, though. Enter the men in kilts:

"Some of the dances and some of the scenes are so masculine," Ford said. "The writing is just exciting. There's a certain elegance to it and a real masculine elegance to it, which is sort of surprising to some people, but it just has a real masculine sense to the show."

Anderson, who plays Harry, helped choreograph several dances for the men and a rough-and-tumble chase scene that has characters leaping off props, being thrown into the air and narrowly missing being tackled.

He also taught actors an authentic Scottish sword dance that he learned from an expert in Fairbanks. The dance involves intricate footwork around a crossed sword and sheath on the ground.

As legend goes, the dance developed from ancient Scottish warriors who would cross two swords on the ground and dance around them for good luck before battle.

"It's challenging," Anderson said. "I keep telling the cast it's a lot more fun to do than to watch."

And the kilt?

"I've never danced in a kilt before," he said. "I like it. I get the advantage of wearing the kilt and being armed, which tends to make it a more masculine experience than just walking around in the outfit."

 

Harry Beaton, played by Lucas Anderson, performs a sword dance in a rehearsal of Brigadoon.

Photo by Jenny Neyman

Costumes were made specifically for this show, since there isn't a lot of Scottish garb sitting around in people's closets. Though it was a stretch for the show's budget, making all the costumes allowed costumers to research and come up with clothing that is authentic to the region and time period.

The same attention to detail went into the show's many props and sets. Since much of the show takes place outside, set designers got creative in bringing the feel of Scottish moors to the stage, going so far as to bring in live trees and force their leaves open to enhance the outdoors effect.

Ford said about 250 people have been involved in this production, whether it's as actors, dancers, musicians, costumers, painters or any number of other roles.

Ford said an added bonus of this show has been how involved everyone has gotten in creating an authentic feel for Brigadoon, even researching clan names and histories so their tartans and crests are correct.

They just hope people of the Kenai Peninsula will take the opportunity to see the show before their musical "Brig-adoon," like the town, disappears.

 

Men of Brigadoon search for Harry Beaton before he leaves the town and breaks its protective enchantment.

Photo by Jenny Neyman

"I think they're going to love it, I really do," Leckwee said. "Just from being in it, when there's times when I get to sneak away and watch — wow, it blows me away."

Performances are Friday, Saturday and Sunday and next weekend Feb. 25, 26 and 27 at the Renee C. Henderson Auditorium at Kenai Central High School. Evening showings are at 7 and Sunday matinees are at 3 p.m. Tickets are available at Charlotte's, Old Town Music, M&M Market, River City Books, The Music Box and Sweeney's.

Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for kids and seniors to most shows. Opening night tickets are $8 per person. On Sundays, tickets are $5 for kids and $8 for seniors.



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