The town of Brigadoon rises out of the Scottish mist once every hundred years, but the show "Brigadoon" is infinitely more persistent.
This month, the Lerner and Loewe musical has reared its tuneful head on the bonny banks of the Occoquan River at the Lazy Susan Dinner Theatre.
In usual chow-biz fashion, the production is bright and heartfelt, backed by taped music, a shallow stage and charmingly artificial scenery.
Director Randall Jones knows his material--he recently starred in a production of the ubiquitous show at the C.A.S.T. in McLean community theater, where he displayed a knack for making an old-fashioned, sentimental hero seem believable by adding a dose of hard-boiled cynicism.
Sometimes, but not always, he is successful in conveying that sort of realism to the actors at the Lazy Susan.
Last Saturday, though, the cast faced a rather tough crowd. A busload of foreign-exchange high school students filled the center of the house, keeping up a hum of conversation and occasionally giggling through the emotional scenes. On top of that, the jaded press was there. (Fortunately the critic who brought a tiny TV along to check the score of the opening game of the World Series at intermission was unable to get clear reception at his table and had to put away his toy.)
Meanwhile, three minutes into the opening scene in the highland wilds of Scotland, a cell phone started ringing from the audience. The actors ignored it like the professionals they are, though it did serve to break the mood a bit.
But it's hard to keep a good show down. "Brigadoon" has enchanted audiences ever since its Broadway debut in 1947, and its many incarnations have included a 1954 film version with Gene Kelly and Van Johnson and a fine 1966 TV production starring Robert Goulet and Peter Falk (just before his "Columbo" days).
In case it somehow passed you by, "Brigadoon" is the tale of Tommy Albright, an American tourist, who is taking in post-war Europe with his wise-talking pal, Jeff Douglas. They land in the Scottish countryside and stumble across an 18th-century village, Brigadoon, where Tommy (who is betrothed to a shrewish socialite back in the states) falls in love with the sweet-tempered Fiona MacLaren.
It seems like a match made in heaven, until Tommy learns that Brigadoon has been miraculously blessed to protect it from witches and worldly influences, so the town and its inhabitants appear only one day in each 100 years.
Kristopher Holtz is a likable hero as Tommy, but he comes at the character a bit too tentatively at times. He sings well and cuts a fairly dashing figure, but sometimes it's hard to tell that Tommy is disgruntled with his fiancee and that he's clearly taken with Fiona.
Tommy's buddy, Jeff, has some of the best lines in the show, and Brian Ballantine delivers them right on the money, getting the best laughs of the night, even from Saturday's restless crowd.
Barbara Stansell makes a warm and lovable Fiona. She wrestled a little with Fiona's ballads on Saturday, but Stansell makes it clear why Tommy would be attracted to her character. Stansell also handles her Scottish accent with ease, as do many of the actors, who are coached in voice by Carol A. Strachan, a British native.
Some of the best performances come from actors in minor roles. Sean Clark is dynamic as Charlie Dalrymple, a Brigadoon lad who is marrying Fiona's sister. Clark is so engaging, in fact, one wonders how different the production might have been had he been cast in the leading role.
Shon M. Stacy is similarly memorable as the villain, Harry Beaton, a frustrated admirer of Charlie's wife. Stacy performs the gripping sword dance, choreographed by Matthew J. Conner, who created some lively steps all around, though hemmed in by the Lazy Susan's wide, but crowded stage.
Tara B. Garwood was also a crowd-pleaser on Saturday as the lustful Meg Brockie, especially in a wild performance of "My Mother's Wedding."
"Brigadoon" is full of now-classic tunes, including "Almost Like Being in Love," "The Heather on the Hill" and the title song; and the Lazy Susan cast--particularly in the ensemble pieces--belts them out with gusto.
Despite a few lapses in tone, the production is an enjoyable one, and the food at the Lazy Susan is fresh and way-too-plentiful for folks with little will power.
You still have time to catch the show--unlike the legendary, elusive Brigadoon, this performance is making appearances all the way to the end of the millennium.
"Brigadoon" continues Tuesdays through selected Sundays, and matinees on selected Sundays, through Dec. 31 at the Lazy Susan Dinner Theatre, Route 1 at Furnace Road, north of Woodbridge. Tickets are $32.95, Saturdays, and $30.95, other days; selected nonsmoking nights offered. Call 703-550-7384 for serving and curtain times and reservations.