Count yourself lucky if you have a ticket to BRIGADOON, University of Michigan Musical Theatre Program (Review)

To put it simply, the best musical theater in the region is consistently presented by the University of Michigan’s Musical Theatre Program. The productions from performance to stagecraft are indistinguishable from Broadway staging and tours (which is as it should be, since this one of the best musical theater training programs in the country). Brigadoon is no exception, and it is one of their finest.

Program artwork by David Zinn

Running one all-too-short weekend at the Power Center, Brigadoon shows what can be achieved when the performance, artistic, and technical aspects of musical theater come together in the perfect combination. The show itself falls into the dangerous territory of veering into light opera (where it is, alas, frequently produced). But this is a production whose grounding is solidly in the world of theater and musical comedy. This particular production could be lifted intact into any Broadway house, and thankfully, not into any opera house.

Thank Linda Goodrich for her fine direction; Mark Esposito for dazzling dance sequences; Catherine Walker Adams for pitch-perfect musical direction; Vince Mountain’s deceptively sparse and beautiful set (which is actually composed of huge pieces of rolling and flying stock); Shawn McCulloch’s colorful costume design (in particular the tartan clan costumes for the wedding); Rob Murphy’s colorful lighting design; and Jim Lillie’s excellent sound design.

Joe Carroll and Holland Mariah Grossman make for excellent time-crossed lovers Tommy and Fiona. Their “Almost Like Being in Love” is an Act I highlight. Will Burton plays a fine sarcastic and comic Jeff; Grace Morgan a fine Meg. Dereck Seay and Laura Reed turn in fine singing and dancing performances respectively as Charlie and Jean.

I particularly enjoyed Sam Lips as Harry Beaton — he has very strong stage presence and his dance skills are exceptional…his funeral brought a tear to the eye because he infused Harry with a like-ability that is frequently missing in this part.

The entire ensemble is excellent from top to bottom. But what makes this Brigadoon stand out from the crowd is Mark Esposito’s choreography — the show moves from beginning to end, fusing Scottish-laden dance sequences with ballet, modern dance, and a fluid movement that makes the show at once rich in dance technique and yet light on it’s feet at the same time. It’s as if the cast is virtually willing us to dance through the heather in the highlands of Scotland and all will be well.

This is a brilliant production of Brigadoon, and those of us lucky to have tickets will cherish this performance for years to come — indeed, it will become one of the landmarks by which future UM Musical Theater productions will be compared.

3 thoughts on “Count yourself lucky if you have a ticket to BRIGADOON, University of Michigan Musical Theatre Program (Review)

  1. An amazing production through and through. The cast, the ensemble and the creative team delivered a poignant and touching story to its audience. Classic music theatre done with intelligence, artistry and unbelievable skill. The talented students at UM have paid homage to an epic and beautiful piece of historical theatre with what was at times haunting, hysterical, operatic and arresting. A distinguished production amongst many that have preceded it at the university and beyond.

  2. Sorry! Made the edit — that’s what happens when you are writing a review at 1 in the morning….

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