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Photograph by David Allen

The Real Love of Her Life: Karen DeHart vamps Ray Renati in 'Brigadoon.'

Almost Like Being In Love

Foothill Music Theatre revives Lerner and Loewe's magical 'Brigadoon'

By Marianne Messina

'SOMETHING happened to me over in Scotland, and now I just don't fit in here" ("here" being the upscale business circles of New York City). Sounds like someone just back from Burning Man, but it's only Tommy Albright (Tim Reynolds) back from the "miracle" town Brigadoon, which comes to life for one day every 100 years.

In the Foothill Music Theatre production of Brigadoon, the town frozen in time throbs with the spirit of bygone days. A stage crammed with knotted and gnarled forest trees, or pushcarts sporting market goods, or the home of the young lass Jean MacLaren (Lisa Schwebke) on her wedding day, are all created by the versatile scrims, panels and mobile set pieces of scenic designer Joe Ragey. (One huge, wheeled set piece is a grand old tree on one side and a homey hearth on the other.)

You know that Brigadoon is fantastical by the steady fog puffing onto the stage. Suggesting a world ruled by the natural environment, one scene change takes place as part of a raging storm—in the shadows under a darkened projection sky, set pieces are trafficked across the stage to a sound and light show that starts out thunder and lightning and evolves through the stages of a storm until sunshine returns and the next scene begins.

Though in his opening statements, director Jay Manley tells the audience that the Alan Jay Lerner/Frederick Loewe writing team "were very edgy" in their time, this 60-year-old favorite now offers familiar comfort food to those who like good songs (bonus art form: Scottish Highland dancing). The Foothill production actually drew challenging grumbles at a recent matinee for one of its more outmoded laugh lines: "When a lass gets married," says Andrew MacLaren (Ted Hatrack), father of Jean and Fiona, "she must get used to listening and not talking."

But Manley has, in fact, done some updating. "Contemporary" scenes originally set in the '40s are now set in 2005. So we first see the lost-in-the-woods hunters Tommy and Jeff (Ray Renati) glued to a cell phone in attempts to get a call through for directions. They finally give up with "So much for worldwide roaming." The "Entrance of the Clans" that launches the wedding of Jean and Charlie (Matthew Brandon Hutchens) makes for satisfying spectacle. The sight of each clan dressed in its particular tartan (costume designer Janis Bergmann) captures the visual essence of kinship, family honor and individuals defined by history and lineage.

As the popular hometown boy and Jean's bridegroom, Charlie Dalrymple, Hutchens displays outstanding song-and-dance chops. His crisp, natural-seeming highland footwork never lets us forget that good form is a point of pride. And the charm of Hutchens' singing earns Charlie's golden-boy status, especially in the rangy, dynamic love song "Come to Me, Bend to Me."

Karen DeHart does a nice frisky-and-warm take on the town's loose-woman Meg Brockie. Michele C. Johnston sings a light, lilting Fiona, the girl who decides she'll only marry "when I find someone who makes me think of it." And that someone turns out to be Tommy. Reynolds plays him easy-going and pleasant if not dashing. Where the favorite son Charlie simply embodies his place in life, Tommy's war of heart and mind leaves him confused. To get to the happy ending, Tommy must trade in a faith of belief for one of action—this show has far from aged into irrelevance. Reynolds' singing is apt if straightforward, but come on, it's "Almost like Being in Love," a song that needs no frills.

Brigadoon, a Foothill Music Theatre production, plays Thursday-Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm through Aug. 14 at Smithwick Theatre, Foothill College, 12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills. Tickets are $10-$24. (650.949.7414).

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From the July 27-August 2, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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