‘Brigadoon’ magic for director Rody Gilkeson at Munopco
By KATHY LAUER-WILLIAMS
Special to The Press
“Brigadoon” has a special place in Rody Gilkeson’s heart.
As a child, the 1954 movie adaption of the musical was often playing on television in his house.
“My mother used to love to watch movie musicals,” he says. “When it was on TV, she would sing along with the songs.”
Gilkeson says his mother was a big fan of actor Van Johnson, who played the best friend of Gene Kelly’s Tommy Albright in “Brigadoon,” so the lilting Scottish fantasy was one of her favorites.
“Over the years, I grew a real love for the musical,” Gilkeson says.
Now, he is directing “Brigadoon” for Munopco Music Theatre. The show kicks off Munopco’s 2018-2019 season at 8 p.m. Sept. 21 for a two-weekend run, including performances at 8 p.m. Sept. 22, 28 and 29 and 2 p.m. Sept. 23 at the Scottish Rite Cathedral, Allentown.
Gilkeson says, like the magical village for which it is named, “Brigadoon” kept reappearing in his life. In high school, Gilkeson’s passion was sports rather than theater, but when he went to see his high school’s production of “Brigadoon,” it left a lasting impression.
“It was the first time I was watching something live on stage,” he says. “After that it was always in the back of my head. The magic of ‘Brigadoon’ was the catalyst that finally got me involved in theater.”
He said the Munopco board had decided to do an “old classic” musical and ended up choosing “Brigadoon.”
Gilkeson immediately put in his name to direct. He says it was the first opportunity ever for him to be involved in a production of the show.
“It’s not done that often,” he says. “I wanted to see if I could be a part of the magic.”
“Brigadoon” opened on Broadway in 1947, receiving a Tony Award for choreography by the legendary Agnes de Mille.
The musical has book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe. Songs from the musical, such as “Almost Like Being in Love” and “Heather on the Hill,” have become American Songbook standards.
The story follows two American tourists who stumble upon Brigadoon, a mysterious Scottish village that appears for only one day every 100 years. Tommy, one of the tourists, falls in love with Fiona, a young woman from Brigadoon, whose sister Jean is getting married to Charlie that very day.
Gilkeson says the Munopco production has its own “Brigadoon” love story among the cast.
Robert Clausnitzer, who plays Tommy in the show, met his wife Beth, when he played Charlie and she played Jean in a production of “Brigadoon” years ago.
Now Beth is playing Tommy’s American fiance and the couple’s 16-year-old son Christian is playing Charlie, the part in which his father met his mother.
Gilkeson says the musical, although it follows the same story as the movie, is a little different from the film, a star vehicle for Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse, who played Fiona. The film highlighted the couple’s dancing.
In the Munopco production, the dancing is done by Jean, who is played by Elizabeth Boehm. Fiona, played by Elizabeth Marsh-Gilkeson, doesn’t dance.
Choreographer Joey Schubert researched traditional Scottish dance for the show and Boehm performs a Scottish sword dance. She also does ballet sequences.
“It really showcases her dancing,” Gilkeson says.
Mackenzie Lewis, as another village girl Maggie, does a funeral dance that is “very beautiful and emotional,” Gilkeson says. “She does an amazing job.”
Costume designer Mary Catherine Bracali has gotten kilts for all the men, which Gilkeson says they are having fun with.
He also says two cast members are bagpipe players which he hopes to incorporate in the show.
Munopco borrowed scenic backdrops from Catasauqua Area Showcase Theatre. The Munopco show set designer Brett Oliveira, who also is in the cast, is building the village houses. Plenty of on-stage fog will add a touch of mystery to the proceedings.
The cast of 33 includes Jessica Weber, Nikola Georgievski, Robert Calder, Brooke Brida, Fred Broadbent, Danny Garcia, Carol Gehris, Richard Gunkle, Michael Hollingsworth, Bethe Hoppes, Stephanie Hughes, Deb Jacoby, Jeffrey Logan Keenhold, David Knoller, Peter McKeon, David Moll, Jaedon Muhl, Tessa Seals, Linda Sherer, Lisa Suppan, Olivia Theisen, Tracy Weaver, Max Wetherhold, and Deven Windisch.
Tickets: Scottish Rite Cathedral box office, 1533 Hamilton St. Allentown; munopco.org/tickets; 610-437-2441