Romanticism of composers Lerner and Loewe first seen in 'Brigadoon'

Published: Saturday, Oct. 5 2013 4:10 p.m. MDT

Kyle Olsen as Tommy and Lisa Zimmerman as Fiona in the Monday/Wednesday/Friday cast of Hale Centre Theatre's "Brigadoon."

Blair Howell, Courtesy Hale Centre Theatre

WEST VALLEY CITY — Known as Broadway’s Last Romantics, Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe created some of the most popular and enduring works of musical theater for both the stage and on film.

Their credits include “My Fair Lady,” “Camelot,” “Gigi” and “Paint Your Wagon,” but “Brigadoon” was the team’s first major success.

“Brigadoon” was also a first for Hale Centre Theatre. It was the first Broadway musical staged by the company, after producing more than 50 shows written by founders Nathan and Ruth Hale.

“It’s such a great legend of community, loyalty and love told through timeless music and dance,” said Sally Dietlein, HCT vice president and executive producer. “We’re thrilled to bring it back and introduce it to the next generation of Hale theatergoers. We’ve created a show that will bring ‘Brigadoon’ to life for old and new fans.”

At its 1947 opening, “Brigadoon” was hailed by the New York Herald Tribune as “a bonny thing for Broadway, a scintillating song and dance fantasy that has given theatergoers reason to toss tamoshanters in the air.” Another reviewer called it a “stunning show” that has “whimsy, beguiling music (and) exciting dancing. ... ‘Brigadoon’ is by far the best musical play the season has produced, and it is certainly one of the best within my entire play-going experience.”

The romanticism of Lerner and Loewe is seen in the musical’s central theme. Two American tourists get lost on vacation in the Scottish Highlands and stumble onto Brigadoon. The mystical village appears for only one day every 100 years, and no outsiders can stay in Brigadoon unless they fall in love. The story revolves around a jaded American city boy who falls in love with an innocent lass.

While the musical ran in New York for 585 performances and in London for 700 performances, the musical might never have been produced. Lerner and Loewe’s first shows — “Life of the Party” and “What’s Up?” — were “fast fold” disappointments, and “The Day Before Spring” was only a little more successful.

“Brigadoon” was rejected by all available producers on the grounds that it would never be a commercial success. The temperamental impresario Billy Rose expressed interest but demanded total control and major alterations, and according to Lerner, “The contract Billy Rose wished us to sign negated Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves.” Cheryl Crawford, who was instrumental in the careers of Mary Martin and Helen Hayes, ultimately saw potential and decided to produce the show.

Without “Brigadoon,” the American Songbook would not have included such classics as “Almost Like Being in Love,” “The Heather on the Hill” and “Come to Me, Bend to Me.”

And Brigadoon would not have been added to our lexicon. Merriam-Webster defines the word as “a place that is idyllic, unaffected by time or remote from reality.”

If you go ...

What: “Brigadoon”

Where: Hale Centre Theatre West Valley City

When: Oct. 9-Nov. 30

How much: $16-$26

Tickets: 801-984-9000 or hct.org

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