The large-scale stage musical story "Brigadoon" is not a tale theaters often bring to audiences.
Much like the tiny, mysterious village featured as the production's plot point, "Brigadoon" just doesn't emerge as one of the obvious and expected shows revisited by theater companies.
It's one of the reasons audiences are eager for Goodman Theatre's new production of "Brigadoon," billed as Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's "big, beautiful and beguiling song and dance fantasy," to begin preview performances June 27 for a run that spans through Aug. 3.
Chicago director/choreographer Rachel Rockwell is heading the production as she makes her Goodman debut.
"It's a very large cast production, and so I think theaters might tend to look toward other musicals when picking their seasons," said Rockwell, who began rehearsals May 20 with the cast of 28 that features Kevin Earley as Tommy Albright and Curt Bouril as Jeff Douglas, the two American travelers who stumble upon the mythical 18th century village of Brigadoon, which appears for only one day every 100 years.
Jennie Sophia, who hails from Goshen, Ind. plays Fiona, the village girl who captures Tommy's heart and attention.
The cast also includes Larry Adams, Jordan Brown, Joseph Foronda, Rhett Guter, George Keating, Michael Aaron Lindner, Roger Mueller, Maggie Portman, Olivia Renteria, Emily Rohm, Katie Spelman, Craig Spidle, Richard Strimer and Rod Thomas. Rockwell's ensemble of 11 also includes Drew Nellessen, who hails from Valparaiso and is a 2003 graduate of Valparaiso High School.
"In every sense, 'Brigadoon' is a dream piece: an emotionally rich story, romantic in the purest sense of the word, rendered against a glorious score and beautifully orchestrated story ballet—one of the things I enjoy most as a choreographer, but something few musicals have," said Rockwell, who was approached by Alan Jay Lerner's daughter, Liza Lerner, to revive her father's seminal work.
Rockwell said she agreed with Lerner to remain true to the original work.
The original Broadway production in 1947 ran for nearly 600 performances in New York before hitting London's West End and launching into another nearly 700 performances beginning in 1949. The MGM film version of the story from 1954 directed by Vincente Minnelli starred Gene Kelly, Van Johnson, Cyd Charisse and Elaine Stewart.
A 13-piece orchestra will back two-time Tony Award-winning composer Loewe's score for the Goodman revival, including such memorable songs as "Almost Like Being in Love," "The Heather on the Hill," "Waitin' For My Dearie," "There But For You Go I" and "I'll Go Home with Bonnie Jean." Roberta Duchak is the Music Director and Joshua Clayton is the Orchestrator for the Goodman's production, which is the first major American revival since 1980.
Female lead actress Jennie Sophia joined this production after working with Rockwell earlier this spring at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill. Rockwell, who directed the production, cast Sophia as Fantine in her sweeping musical stage story for a new run of "Les Misérables."
Sophia also performed the role of Fiona in the June 2011 production of Light Opera Works in Evanston, as well as starring in the same role in 2002 for a run at The Wagon Wheel Theatre in Warsaw, Ind.
"My favorite musical moment in this story is with the song 'From This Day On,' " Sophia said.
"It's the most powerful moment for my character and Tommy."
As for Nellessen, who said he's enjoying his first opportunity to work with Rockwell, his favorite scene in the production is "The Sword Dance" musical number.
"The scene with 'The Sword Dance' number is challenging and that's what makes it exciting," he said.
Rockwell said the musical's run time will likely be close to two hours and 20 minutes, which includes the intermission.
For the scenery design, she promises plenty of misty fog and rolling hills of Heather, the flowering bloom so associated with the show.
She believes audiences will also be impressed with the detail of the costuming for her "Brigadoon."
"The costume research included a trip to Inverness, Scotland, which is where the fabric for the costumes came from for the designs from the tartan mill," Rockwell said.
"All of the clans represented had to be different. And we found some of the patterns could be very bright. One pattern is even called Loud MacLeod."