Goodman Theatre’s revival of Brigadoon has just been extended for the second time since it opened in June. Much of the show’s success is due to its lead Jennie Sophia who uses her commanding yet subtle stage presence to convincingly portray Fiona MacLaren, the dreamy heroine of a sleepy Scottish town.
Sophia, who has performed with Light Opera Works, flawlessly reaches the high notes on the Highlands-inspired songs of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe. When she sings the show’s hit “It’s Almost Like Being in Love” with co-star Kevin Earley, there’s a palpable sense of joy from the audience.
Maggie Portman makes a splash in her Goodman debut as the spirited and saucy Meg Brockie. She energetically belts out musical numbers while being tossed around and delivers broad comedy (in every sense of the word) with the right amount of underlining pathos. Her over-the-top enthusiasm is nicely offset by the dry-witted Jeff, her reluctant love interest effectively played by Rod Thomas in his Goodman debut.
The costumes by Mara Blumenfeld and set design by Kevin Depinet successfully create an enchanting picture of old Scotland which is complemented by elements of traditional Scottish dance seen in the work of multi-Jeff Award-winning director/choreographer Rachel Rockwell and associate choreographer Gordon Pierce Schmidt. In addition, period-specific Scottish sounds are featured in new orchestrations added by music director Roberta Duchak and orchestrator Josh Clayton.
As the first large-scale professional revival of the musical in 30 years, Goodman’s Brigadoon is a big deal, literally with a 28-member company and 13-member orchestra. It’s clear the show aims to please yet suffers a bit from its abundance. For example, since Brigadoon isn’t one of Lerner and Lowe’s best musical collaborations (it’s no My Fair Lady, Camelot or Gigi), it would have been wise to refrain from repeating some of the show’s lyrically lackluster refrains.
And while Brian Hill’s revised book rightly includes the love stories for the two leads and two supporting players as well as a love triangle for three third-tier characters, it doesn’t mean each of the sixth, seventh and eighth billed roles merit a dance of their own. In this sense, Brigadoon gets too big for its britches (or kilts) causing the production’s pace to slow and story’s focus to wane.
In the end, this bountiful adaptation has plenty of heart but could benefit from a few nips and tucks. After all, lass is more.
Brigadoon now runs through August 17, 2014 in Goodman’s Albert Theatre on 170 N. Dearborn Street in Chicago. To order tickets ($25-$98), visit www.GoodmanTheatre.org/Brigadoon.