Of all Lerner and Loewe’s Broadway shows – and it’s a small but perfectly formed list – Brigadoon has to be my favourite. My Fair Lady is undoubtedly one of only a handful of musicals that could be described as perfect but Brigadoon, for all its whimsy and imperfection, has my heart. Now and forever. It contains the most beguiling set of drop-dead gorgeous melodies – few shows are as generous on ballads – and however fanciful and/or dubious its Scottish accent its big-heartedness is irresistible.
New York City Center Encores – an NYC haven for neglected or forgotten shows – have now revived the show six times, a testament to its enduring appeal, and this latest manifestation with the delectable Kelli O’Hara as Fiona is most welcome. Indeed just hearing O’Hara slip effortlessly into the lilting chorus of her first number ‘Waitin’ for My Dearie’ was all the persuading I needed.
Alright, so the original Broadway orchestrations (charming though they are) are no match for Conrad Salinger’s sumptuous feast of swooning strings and descanting unison horns in the MGM movie – ‘Heather on the Hill’ will never be the same without them or Gene Kelly, for that matter – but the producers were brutal over the length of the film and denied us four numbers including Meg’s two comedy turns and, more inexplicably, the great ballads ‘Come To Me, Bend To Me’ and ‘There But For You Go I’ which were recorded for the film but later excluded. They are irreplaceable and have to be there.
So this 2017 revival features the feisty Stephanie J Block (love this voice) as Meg, nailing all the punchlines and belt notes of ‘The Love of My Life’, and a relative Broadway newcomer Ross Lekites as Charlie – a lovely lyric show tenor who throughly refreshes ‘Come To Me, Bend To Me’ and wins hearts with his swooning high B natural. Not surprisingly, the crucial falling sixth interval of this number carried more than a hint of deja vu when Andrew Lloyd Webber re-deployed it in ‘Music of the Night’ for his Phantom. I guess it was simply in his head. For sure it’s hard to get out of anyone’s head.
O’Hara and Patrick Wilson (the Curly from the National Theatre’s Broadway transfer of Trevor Nunn’s Oklahoma!) make for romantic leads blessed with old-school vocal credentials. If I’m quibbling I’d say that the tempo for ‘There But For You Go I’ is a trifle hasty – since this is one melody you never want to let go of. But the 11 o’clock duet ’From This Day On’ breaks your heart as the best show songs are wont to do – and Lerner’s tender lyric is engraved for all to see as you remove the CD from the jewel case: ‘Through all the years to come/ An’ through all the tears to come/ I know I’ll be yours/From this day on.’