It tells the story of a mysterious Scottish village that appears for only one day every hundred years, though to the villagers, the passing of each century seems no longer than one night. The enchantment is viewed by them as a blessing rather than a curse, for it saved the village from destruction. According to their covenant with God, no one from Brigadoon may ever leave, or the enchantment will be broken and the site and all its inhabitants will disappear into the mist forever. Two American tourists, lost in the Scottish Highlands, stumble upon the village just as a wedding is about to be celebrated, and their arrival has serious implications for the village's inhabitants.
Other sources suggest that the fictional village's name was constructed from the Celtic word "briga," which means "town" (such as in the old city names of Segobriga, Brigantium....) and the Scottish Gaelic "dùn," which means a fort, e.g. Dundee or Dunfermline. The name may also be a reference to the Celtic Goddess Brigid, as in "Brigid's Hill." See also Alloway for another interpretation.
The musical's original West End production opened on April 14 1949 at Her Majesty's Theatre, running for an even more successful 685 performances. It starred Philip Hanna as Tommy, Patricia Hughes as Fiona, James Jamieson as Harry, and Noele Gordon as Meg.
The first Broadway revival, directed by George H. Englund and choreographed by De Mille, opened on April 15 1957 at the Adelphi Theatre, where it ran for 24 performances. The cast included David Atkinson, Helen Gallagher, Patricia Birch, and Marilyn Cooper.
The second Broadway revival, directed by John Fearnley and choreographed by De Mille, opened on January 30 1963 at New York City Center, where it ran for 16 performances. The cast included Peter Palmer, Russell Nype, Sally Ann Howes, and Edward Villella. It was Tony-nominated for Best Actress in a Musical (Howes), Best Direction of a Musical, and Best Conductor and Musical Director.
After eight previews, the third Broadway revival, directed by Vivian Matalon and choreographed by De Mille, opened on October 16 1980 at the Majestic Theatre, where it ran for 133 performances. The cast included Meg Bussert, Martin Vidnovic, and John Curry. Midnovic received Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations, Bussert earned a Tony nod and won the Theatre World Award, and the production was Tony-nominated for Best Reproduction.
A Cinemascope film version of Brigadoon, directed by Vincente Minnelli, was released by MGM in 1954 with Gene Kelly, Van Johnson and Cyd Charisse in leading roles. The MacLaren family name was changed to Campbell.
Meanwhile, in the town itself, a fair has begun ("McConnachy Square"), with the local vendors selling milk, ale, wool, and other products. Everyone is dressed in traditional Scottish apparel, replete with kilts, sporrans, and ghillies. We are introduced to Meg Brockie, a dairy vendor with a taste for gentlemanly companionship; Angus McGuffie, her employer; Archie Beaton, seller of wool and plaids; and his son Harry.
As the fair continues, the MacLaren family enters, consisting of patriarch Andrew and his two daughters Fiona, a beautiful girl of about 24, and Jean, who is dainty and sweet and approximately 18. They are there to purchase supplies for the wedding of Jean to Charlie Dalrymple. It is revealed that Harry Beaton is still madly in love with Jean, and is very depressed at the thought of her marrying another. One of the other girls asks Fiona when she will get married, and she responds, "When I find someone who makes me think of it." She explains why she would rather wait to find true love than end up marrying the wrong person ("Waitin' For My Dearie").
Just then, Tommy and Jeff wander in from the hillside. They and the Scottish folks stare at each other with bewilderment until Tommy asks where they are, and is told "Brigadoon." Fiona introduces herself to Tommy, and offers the Americans a bite to eat and a place to rest. Meg immediately takes a liking to Jeff and leads him off, as Charlie Dalrymple appears. He's a handsome young man of about 24. He shares some celebratory claret with Tommy, toasting to a Mr. Forsythe whom he thanks for "postponing the miracle." Tommy asks what he means by this, but Fiona shushes him and leads him away, as Charlie sings about the end of his bachelorhood ("Go Home with Bonnie Jean").
Tommy and Fiona return and talk about his impending marriage to his fiancée Jane; clearly Tommy is in no hurry to marry her, and sparks begin to fly between him and Fiona when she reveals that she likes him very much, although "dinna" likes anything he says. She attempts to leave to gather heather for the wedding, but Tommy insists on going with her ("The Heather on the Hill").
Meg has taken Jeff to a place in the forest with a cot where he can rest. She tells him she's "highly attracted" to him, but he wants nothing but sleep and spurns her advances. She reveals her sordid love life ("The Love Of My Life") as he falls asleep.
In the MacLaren home, all of Jean's friends are helping her pack her things to move into Charlie's home ("Jeannie's Packin' Up"). Charlie appears to sign the MacLaren family bible, and tries to see Jean, but is told it's bad luck to see her on the wedding day; he begs for her to come out anyway ("Come To Me, Bend To Me"). The girls disperse as Tommy and Fiona enter with a basket full of heather they've picked. Fiona follows Jean upstairs to help her dress for the wedding, and Jeff enters wearing a pair of Highland trews (trousers); apparently his own pants have been damaged on a "thistle." Jeff asks Tommy how he feels, and Tommy is so happy that he can barely contain it ("Almost Like Being In Love").
Then Tommy notices the family bible, which contains the names of all the people he's met that day, but every important event attached to them, including the impending wedding of Charlie and Jean, is listed as if it had happened two hundred years earlier. He calls Fiona down to question her about this, and she tells him he'll have to see the local schoolmaster, Mr. Lundie, to get the full explanation.
Fiona, Tommy, and Jeff arrive at Mr. Lundie's home, where he gives the two New Yorkers a story they can hardly believe: two hundred years ago, the local parish pastor prayed to God to have Brigadoon disappear, only to reappear for one day every 100 years, to protect it from being changed by the outside world. None of the people of Brigadoon can be permitted to leave the town or it will disappear forever. Tommy, looking at Fiona, asks hypothetically if an outsider could be permitted to stay. Mr. Lundie replies, "A stranger can stay if he loves someone here - not jus' Brigadoon, mind ye, but someone in Brigadoon - enough to want to give up everythin' an' stay with that one person. Which is how it should be. 'Cause after all, lad, if he love someone deeply, anythin' is possible."
The group leaves to go to the wedding, which opens with the Clans coming in from out of the hills. Charlie and Jean are married by Mr. Lundie, and they perform a traditional wedding dance to celebrate. After a time, sword dancers appear, led by Harry, and they put their weapons on the ground and "spin like dervishes." The rest of the town joins in the dance, but abruptly halt as Jean's scream alerts them to Harry trying to kiss her. He announces that he's leaving the town (which would end the miracle, causing Brigadoon to disappear forever into the Highland mists) and sprints away as Act I ends.Act II
The men of the town are frantically trying to find Harry before he can set foot outside of the town ("The Chase"). The music becomes more and more agitated, and suddenly, an agonized scream is heard. Harry Beaton is found dead by the other men, who assume he must have fallen on a rock and crushed his skull. The men decide not to tell the rest of the town until the next morning, so that the wedding can continue without further grief. The men carry Harry's body away, and Fiona and her father come on stage to see if everything is all right. Mr. MacLaren leaves as Tommy reenters; he and Fiona embrace. She reveals her love for him, and he tells her he believes he feels the same way ("There But For You Go I"). Fiona reminds him that the end of the day is near, and Tommy tells her he wants to stay in Brigadoon with her. They leave to find Mr. Lundie.
Meanwhile, the men have returned to town, where Meg is telling about the day her parents were drunkenly married ("My Mother's Wedding Day"), and the townsfolk begin to relax and dance again, until the sound of the Highland Pipes pierces the air. Archie Beaton enters carrying Harry's body, led by the pipers playing a pìobaireachd, and Maggie Anderson, who loved Harry, performs a funeral dance for her unrequited love. The men of Brigadoon help Archie carry his son to the burial place.
Tommy finds Jeff and tells him of his plans to stay. Jeff thinks the idea absurd, and argues with Tommy until he has convinced him that Brigadoon is nothing but a dream. He also admits that it was he who tripped Harry and accidentally killed him. Fiona and Mr. Lundie enter, and Tommy, shaken by Jeff's confession, tells Fiona that even though he loves her, he can't stay because he can't shake his fears and doubts ("From This Day On"). Fiona tells Tommy that she'll love him forever as she fades away into the darkness.
Four months later, we find Jeff back in New York, drinking heavily at a hotel bar. Tommy enters, and the two have a joyous reunion, as Tommy has been living on a farm in New Hampshire since his return from Scotland. He tells Jeff that he's still in love with Fiona; he can't stop thinking about her, and daydreams of her constantly, to the point of being unable to hold a conversation with anyone. Jane Ashford, his fiancée, a beautiful socialite in her late 20s, enters as Jeff exits, and begins to talk to Tommy, but everything she says causes him to hear Fiona's voice and dream of Brigadoon (Reprises of "Come to Me, Bend to Me," "Heather on the Hill"). Tommy suddenly interrupts her and tells her that he can't marry her. She argues with him, but he continues to daydream about his true love (Reprises of "Go Home With Bonnie Jean," "From This Day On"). As Jane leaves, Tommy calls Jeff and tells him he wants to return to Scotland, even though he knows it won't do any good.
Tommy and Jeff have returned to the spot where Brigadoon was; as expected, there's nothing there. Tommy laments, "Why do people have to lose things to find out what they really mean?" Just as he and Jeff turn to leave, they hear the music again ("Brigadoon"), and Mr. Lundie appears. Tommy walks across the bridge to him, as Mr. Lundie explains: "You shouldna be too surprised, lad. I told ye when ye love someone deeply, anythin' is possible. Even miracles." Tommy waves goodbye to Jeff, who stares incredulously as Tommy and Mr. Lundie disappear into the mist.
† Added in 1980 Revival ‡ Moved to Act II in 1980 Revival
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