Of the many recordings of Fredrick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner’s 1947 musical fantasy Brigadoon, the 1957 Studio Cast recording starring Shirley Jones fresh from her acclaimed performance in Oklahoma! and husband Jack Cassidy is considered one of the best. Advanced recording technology allowed the inclusion of more of the Loewe’s music than the original cast album; and the ’54 soundtrack from the MGM feature starring Gene Kelley and Cyd Charisse, certainly more known for dancing, is more focused on the film’s dance elements. Masterworks Broadway’s recent digital re-release of the ’57 album, then comes as a welcome opportunity to add one of the classic musical comedy scores to your iTunes library.
While Brigadoon may be less well known than a show like My Fair Lady, which has become a staple of the straw hat circuit and community theatres, it features a magical story coupled with some fine music, the equal of any of the duo’s other work. Set in Scotland, the book tells the story of two American tourists, in an age before GPS, lost in the highlands, who come across a strange town nowhere visible on Google Maps which seems to appear mythically from the Scottish mists.
There is a joyous fair in progress, and one of the lost tourists, Tommy Albright, played by Cassidy, meets a local girl, Fiona MacLaren (Shirley Jones), and of course they fall in love. The town is preparing to celebrate the wedding of Charlie Dalrymple (Frank Porretta) and Fiona’s younger sister, and when Tommy sees Charlie date his signature in the family Bible 1746, coupled with the villager’s seeming lack of knowledge of many of the conveniences of modern life, it is clear Brigadoon is no ordinary place. It turns out that as the result of an ancient prayer to save the villagers from the evils of the world, the village vanished into the highland mist, and appears again for one day every hundred years. If any of the villagers leave, the spell will be broken, so as the day draws to its close, Tommy must choose between the woman he loves and returning to the modern world.
Probably the best known song from the show is the duet in which Tommy and Fiona describe their day together, “Almost Like Being in Love.” But if it is the best known, it is only one of a number of beautiful ballads scattered through the show. Frank Porretta’s operatic tenor is featured in the elegant “Come to Me, Bend to Me,” a version you can compare with Adam Lambert’s over the top take on the tune . “From This Day On” and “There But for You Go I” showcase Cassidy at his romantic best. “The Heather on The Hill” is a sweet duet for the budding lovers, Tommy and Fiona. Porretta and the chorus do a rousing turn in the infectious “I’ll Go Home with Bonnie Jean.” Susan Johnson, best known for her performance in The Most Happy Fella, has a bravura patter song in “My Mother’s Wedding Day.” It is a score filled with many delights that have not gone stale with time.