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In Blake's 'Brigadoon,' Staging Matches the Magic in the Script

Daniel Raeder, a student at Richard Montgomery High School, reviews Blake's "Brigadoon."

James Hubert Blake High School's production of "Brigadoon," the Lerner and Loewe Broadway sensation, proved that a classic can be performed with incredible freshness and originality when there is attention to the details.

The musical was presented last Thursday and Friday with slightly different cast members each night. The story centers on two Americans, Tommy Albright (played by Justin Pereira) and Jeff Douglas (Graham Flessas) hunting in the Scottish highlands who chance upon the mysterious town of Brigadoon. For one day every 100 years, the town, and all who reside within, wake from their slumber. A light and spirited tone is established when Tommy and his cynical friend Jeff cross an enchanted bridge into the mist to peer into an untouched world.

(By John Ovington)

They enter a town where a crowd in kilts and colorful dresses is dancing in the McConnaghy Square marketplace. Tommy is instantly smitten with the beautiful Fiona (Ashley Larkin), who is preparing for the marriage of her younger sister, Jean (Lynn Poe), to former ladies' man Charlie Dalrymple (Jacob L. Perry Jr.).

However, a darker element underlies the joy. It is found in the well-played ire of the bitter Harry Beaton (Chris Hall), who wants Jean for himself. When Harry tries to abscond with Jean at the wedding, a chase ensues to stop Harry from leaving Brigadoon. Should he cross the bridge, the village and all in it will vanish forever. The chase -- and the entire show -- was well-directed by Michel D'Anna.

In his performance as Jeff, Flessas supplied just the right comic punctuation to these sentimental and romantic scenes. Adding to this mix is the pursuit of Jeff by the town's lusty milkmaid, Meg (played on opening night by Danielle Barlow). The audience clearly was dazzled by Barlow, who jumped into her songs with everything she had, including a commanding stage presence, an understanding of her character and a show-stopping voice.

Other brilliant vocals were to be found in Pereira's performance of "Almost Like Being in Love" and his duet with Larkin on "Heather on the Hill."

What made this show a real gem was that it was put on entirely by Blake's musical theater company class with technical support from the school's stage company. The musical showcased technical skill not normally seen even in larger high school productions.

Students handled all the major technical areas: Flessas the carpentry and Perry the lighting. Even in the show's more serious scenes, the stage was kept alive by the colorful tartans and beautiful period costuming overseen by Sarah Lomke, Louise Flessas and Lisa Lomke. Colleen Murray handled the scenic painting admirably.

A significant choice was to use a single piano as accompaniment and it was wonderfully played by Johnathan Dunn, the music director for the class. Despite some initial skepticism, I found this decision added to the intimate feel of the production and worked in perfect lock step with the actors' voices. Everything was crystal clear -- accents and all.
It would have been easy to simply present a bubbly show, but the direction and performances were beyond expectations as they achieved the heart-tugging pathos that this show needs. Deciphering the meaning of "Brigadoon" became easy and could not be forgotten as one left the theater: that when "ye love someone deeply, anythin' is possible. Even miracles."

Blake's production of "Brigadoon" proved to be a miracle of its own.

By Washington Post Editors  |  February 12, 2009; 12:27 PM ET
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