note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Beverly Creasey
If you haven't sampled the musicals at Boston Conservatory, you're missing out on some delightful theater, the latest of which is Lerner and Lowe's "Brigadoon". The stakes are always high at Boston Conservatory because these students go directly from the musical theater program into professional; productions all over the U.S., including on Broadway.
For this production of "Brigadoon" famed choreographer Dennis Cole recreates the original Agnes DeMille dancing ---- only a handful of choreographers are sanctioned by the DeMille estate to do so. The folk/ballet/modern dance in "Brigadoon" is the heart of the story, with principal characters expressing their emotions in dance not song, which sets "Brigadoon" apart from other musicals.
The magical village which comes alive for only one day every hundred years is peopled with fresh-faced, quirky Scottish characters in the energetic Conservatory production. You may find more polished performers on Broadway but they won't have the excitement and vitality these students exude, even in small roles.
For example, we get an endearing macho bridegroom to deliver the cheery "Bonnie Jean" and the exquisitely beautiful "Come To Me, Bend To Me". Where the role is often cast for the voice alone (and not a tenor's ability to act), Dominic Nolfi comes as a refreshing surprise. He's brash, he's cheeky and he can dance as well as sing! Nolfi is paired with an impish charmer named Gina Peluso whose anticipation ballet is as sweet as she is.
Taking centerstage in the dancing portion of "Brigadoon" is Trevor Miles Little as the rejected suitor. His fiery sword dance is one of the show's highlights. Another is Christy Cannistra's searing funeral dance --- with the familiar DeMille breast beating gestural dance language.
The lovers at the center of the story create lovely sparks courting as well as in their tender duets. Erin Davie has the grace of a Maureen O'Hara and a warm, vibrant soprano. Mark Lawson has the rugged good looks and solid voice to step into any show's lead. But the real story at Boston Conservatory is that each role is played with gusto, from Kate Petterle's show-stopping shenanigans as the town tease to Colin Buckley's kindly father-of-the-bride.
Peter Mansfield's orchestra plays with conviction. What a pleasure to hear the perfect balance between orchestra and singers. Kudos to bagpiper Iain Massie and to the gorgeous strings in the "Come To Me" ballet. David Costa-Gabral's crew researched the tartans for the sumptuous Scottish costumes and the colors alone --- lit by John Malinowski --- evoke a Scotland of ages past. Jill Hendrickson's forest set bespeaks fantasy: one could almost smell the heather on the hill.