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A simpler but entertaining era

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Production of ‘Brigadoon’ explores our yearning for yesterday

By Emile Hallez

In updating Alan Jay Lerner’s classic musical “Brigadoon,” a story about an early 19th-century Scottish village that appears to the rest of the world every 100 years, director Chris Willard sprinkled in a few modern lines, such as references to global positioning systems and Twitter.

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Though modernizing a play about a 200-year-old village might seem unusual, the effect is arguably in synch with Lerner’s intentions — luring a perpetually distracted audience with the charms of a simpler time.

And while one’s immersion in the world of “Brigadoon” requires only a small suspension of disbelief to overcome the plot’s ostensible frivolity, the effect such theatrical time travel is as apparent as the contrast between the stage’s rustic wooden carts and the cool glow of smart phones in the hands of audience members inevitably updating their Facebook statuses between acts.

Simply, we have less time to focus on the things that make us human, a theme the Town Hall Arts Center production shows without much subtlety.

“Everyone sort of wants a Brigadoon in their lives. We’re such an information-heavy society, and our attention span is the size of a gnat’s,” Willard said of the production, which opened Feb. 17 and runs through March 18. “ ‘Brigadoon’ offers a chance to focus back on your lives.”

When the story begins, two Manhattanites — Tommy and Jeff, played by David Ambroson and David Novinger — are stumbling through the Scottish highlands on a fanciful hunting expedition, shotguns in hand. The two are lost, and, surprise, their GPS signal suddenly vanishes. They arrive at Brigadoon, a rustic village preparing for a wedding between the happy-go-lucky Charlie, played by Littleton resident Tim Howard, and Jean, played by Erica Lloyd.

Through varying stages of shock, the two hunters come to accept their circumstances, and Tommy, a caricature of contemporary ennui, questions his life as he falls for Fiona, a simple but charming lass played by Alison Mueller.

As the sun sets, Tommy and Jeff magically make their way back to present-day New York. In a bar nostalgically decorated with 1950s furnishings — in its own way a hint at our collective yearning for the past — Tommy contemplates a return to the highlands.

The production, which relies more heavily on tightly choreographed dance than song, was selected by the arts center’s board specifically for its visual appeal.

Littleton resident Kelly Kates choreographed the production, which seems to make use of every square inch of the small stage. The musical features seemingly countless dances and elaborate group numbers flowing with kilts and twirling, vibrant skirts.

The cast and crew include five Littleton residents and actors and actresses traveling from as far as Colorado Springs and Longmont.

“It’s beautiful music. I’ve enjoyed choreographing it,” Kates said. “This cast has been delightful. Few of the men are trained dancers … to pick up not just dance but the Scottish dancing and the steps — they really worked.”

Another detail in the production was how to execute Scottish accents — not just in dialogue but in song.

“We made some choices to not go as authentic as we could,” Willard laughed. “Because then we wouldn’t be able to understand a thing they say.”

 

Contact Emile Hallez at emile@evergreenco.comor 303-933-2233, ext. 22. For updates, check www.ColumbineCourier.com.

 

 

“Brigadoon”

Playing Feb. 17 through March 18

Town Hall Arts Center, 2450 W. Main St. in Littleton, 303-794-2787

Tickets start at $21; visit www.townhallartscenter.com