Theater critics have the rare opportunity to contrast the new and the old in musicals over the next two weekends as "Blood Brothers" (new style) and "Brigadoon" (the old) continue. Both opened last weekend and continue. The Proscenium Players are staging "Brothers," the Western Nevada Community College's Musical Theater "Brigadoon."
"Brigadoon" opened on Broadway in 1946; "Brothers" in Liverpool, England, in 1983. "Brigadoon," by the team of Learner and Loewe, is the classic American musical, with lots of easy to remember songs and dancing, a love story. "Brothers," written by Willy Russell, has minimalist forgettable music, little dancing and a tragic story. "Brothers" is still playing in London, "Brigadoon" is frequently revived.
LAUGHTER AND TRAGEDY
"Brothers" opened last Friday at the Donald W. Reynolds Theatre in the Brewery Arts Center. The first scene has the cast weirdly milling about on a dimly lighted stage.
Mrs. Johnstone (Karen Chandler) is the mother and she's about to have twins to add to her seven other children. Torn by the problems of adding to her brood, she tells her plight to her childless employer, Mrs. Lyons (Lisa Bommarito). Lyons asks for one of the twins and the two women agree to the idea.
Johnstone keeps Mickey (Skylar Nance) and Eddie (Colin M. Coate) goes to the wealthy Mrs. Lyons. The switch is kept secret and the boys grow up apart. But they meet and become "blood brothers."
Director Tony DeGeiso assembled an excellent cast for "Brothers." Leading is Chandler (in a blonde wig to go with the lyrics of "Marilyn Monroe"). She's the theater teacher at Carson High and again she demonstrates that she knows how to do as well as teach.
Bommarito takes on the unsympathetic role of Mrs. Lyons with determination and is totally convincing. Norman Subotky as her husband is a believable henpecked mate.
Nance as Mickey brings an enthusiasm to his role as he progress from the age of 8 to 20s. As a kid he is boisterous, laughable, real. His brother, Coate as Eddie, is limited early by his role but he grows beautifully into it later.
Older brother Sammy is played by John Frederick with a dark side to be convincing.
Giana M. DeGeiso as Linda, one of Mickey's street gang, slowly emerges as a key player. Early on she is a witty dancer who slowly descends into pathos.
The enigmatic Narrator, Bently, who functions as a commentator on the action, is a strong pivotal figure.
All six members of the Chorus bring vibrancy to their scenes, dancing and singing. They are Cathy Stewart, Dalia E. Gerdel, Ron Flesher, Eagle James and Bug Perry.
Director DeGeiso has done a professional job with a demanding script. While you may find a lot to laugh about in his production, you'll also find something to think about. The taped music works well, although you probably leave whistling it.
Then there's "Brigadoon," a big, classy show by the College that has brought so many fine productions to the Community center. This is a classic musical with a cast of at least 50 and a full orchestra. The script puts two American hunters Tommy and Jeff in Scotland, where they stumble upon Brigadoon, during its once-a-century return from the mists.
Tommy (Chris Willson) meets Fiona (Sarah Pennebaker) and falls in love; Jeff (Kirk Gardner) meets Meg (Lynette Brown) and doesn't fall in love but enjoys himself.
As Tommy wants to know more about Brigadoon, Fiona takes him to the schoolmaster who tells him about Brigadoon's once-in-a-century-return to Scotland from "the mists" where the village was put to protect it. If anyone leaves the village, Brigadoon disappears forever. Foreigners can join the village if they truly love someone there. You may know how it all works out, the show's been around in film and TV so we won't detail the action.
As is often the case with these college shows, Stephanie Arrigotti is director, producer and orchestra conductor. How she keeps all those duties so smoothly under control is a daunting question. In this case, she does just fine. And Gina Kaskie-Davis keeps the choreography smart and alive.
Willson and Pennebaker pull off the leading roles delightfully. Willson's voice is capable enough, but Pennebaker's is a rock-the-rafters pleasure. Gardner is a cynical wit and draws plenty of laughs; Brown is a wicked lady with a fine voice and style.
Other major players include Adam Machart, A.J. Hammond, Gordon Murray, Alice Sady, Shannon Dolan, Beth Rolfs, John Vettel, Ed Scott Jr., Tom Fisk, Paul Stufkosky, Kelly Bevel and Dan Wager.
The Dance Troupe prances with style, the additional soloists likewise and the chorus of 24 makes the stage come to life.
Which is best? Neither. They're both wonderful nights-out for us all.
• Contact Sam Bauman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1236.