REVIEW: Brigadoon - 2017 New York City Center
I should probably admit this upfront: as much as I love the score – and I really love the score – on stage, Brigadoon doesn’t do a great deal for me. I'm well aware that there are people who would probably have me arrested for saying so, but there’s something about Alan Jay Lerner’s book for the show that always feels slightly synthetic, and I am severely allergic to cutesy dancing villagers in period costumes, with or without kilts and overdone accents.
As a score, on the other hand, Brigadoon is glorious. This is some of Frederick Loewe’s loveliest music, and when it’s performed well, as it certainly is here, it is absolutely transporting, even if you usually have to look past a few dodgy ersatz-Scottish accents. The songs at the heart of this score are some of the very best you’ll find in any golden-age Broadway musical. The Love of My Life is a fine character number, Almost Like Being In Love is one of the all-time great duets, and Come To Me, Bend To Me and There But For You, Go I are simply gorgeous.
And it’s fair to say that this new recording, which features the cast of last year’s Encores! presentation of the show at City Center but was recorded some months after the event, gives probably as good an account of Loewe’s wonderful music as you could ever expect. Under the baton of Rob Berman, the orchestra sounds magical, and of course one of the great pleasures of the Encores! series is that you get the full complement of musicians, which here means we have an actual string section rather than the two-violins-and-a-synthesiser you’d usually expect these days in a commercial revival.
There’s a fine cast, too. Stephanie J. Block is a perfect Meg, Ross Lekites offers meltingly lovely renditions of I’ll Go Home With Bonnie Jean and Come To Me, Bend To Me, and Kelli O’Hara and Patrick Wilson – two performers I haven’t always warmed to on other recordings – are absolutely radiant as Fiona and Tommy, whose seemingly-impossible love story (he’s American, she’s from a magical Scottish village that appears to outsiders only once every hundred years) forms the main thrust of the show’s plot. The chorus singing is impeccable, the supporting performances are all appropriately characterful, and while the Highland accents are occasionally a little bit cartoonish – you aren’t ever going to forget that these are American actors doing what they think are Scottish accents – that’s also been true of every other cast recording of this score. This is one of those albums that leaps out through the speakers: a beautifully-packaged collection of superlative performances of a peerless set of songs. This music is just about as good as golden-age Broadway gets, and Patrick Wilson and Kelli O’Hara have probably never sounded better. Even if you don’t love the show, give this a chance.
scottjm wrote on January 2, 2019
The Wedding/Entrance of the Clans music is a glaring omission, which leaves the 1992 studio recording a more definitive recording of the material. A shame, since the recording quality of the Encores production is far superior.
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Brigadoon - 2018 Concert Cast Brigadoon Alan Jay Lerner Frederick Loewe Patrick Wilson Kelli O'Hara Stephanie J. Block Rob Berman Ross Lekites I'll Go Home with Bonnie Jean (12) The Love of My Life (9) Come to Me, Bend to Me (22) Almost Like Being in Love (57) There But for You, Go I (29) Toggle Additional (11)