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Theatre / Brigadoon

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"Brigadoon, Brigadoon,
Blooming under sable skies.
Brigadoon, Brigadoon,
There my heart forever lies.
Let the world grow cold around us,
Let the heavens cry above!
Brigadoon, Brigadoon
In thy valley there'll be love!"

Brigadoon is the 1947 musical play that established the duo of Lerner and Loewe as second to Rodgers and Hammerstein in names to be reckoned within American musical theatre.

Though the story of Brigadoon is not exactly original, being basically the German fairy tale Germelshausen reset in Scotland, it inspired many other stories of Vanishing Villages, including the manga/anime Brigadoon: Marin and Melan.

In the eighteenth century, the Highlands of Scotland were plagued with witches, horrible women who were putting the devil into people's souls. Therefore Mr. Forsythe, old minister of the village of Brigadoon, went out early on a Wednesday morning to petition God for a miracle to protect their village. From then on, the village and its people vanished to the outside world, reappearing only for one day every hundred years. The price for this miracle was that Mr. Forsythe could never return to the village.


The story, however, begins in 1946, when two hunters, Tommy Albright and Jeff Douglas, lose their way in the Highland mist and find a town not on the map. They come to MacConnachy Square, where preparations are under way for the wedding of Charlie Dalmrymple to bonnie Jean, the younger of Andrew MacLaren's two daughters. While the weary Jeff is invited to the hospitality of Meg Brockie, who sells milk and cream in the square, Tommy accompanies Jean's older sister Fiona to gather heather for a wedding from a nearby hill.

Tommy finds the MacLaren family bible and is puzzled by the dates of birth and marriage given within: although Jean does appear to be five and a half years younger than Fiona, why are the years of their birth over two centuries ago? And is today, the date of Jean's marriage to Charlie, really supposed to be May 24th, 1746? Fiona, who has obviously fallen in love with Tommy at this point, directs him to the town's schoolmaster, Mr. Lundie, who tells Tommy and Jeff all about the miracle, including the condition that it will be broken forever if someone of Brigadoon were to leave its borders. Outsiders like Tommy are free to leave if they like, except if The Power of Love compels them to stay. Everyone is happy in the village, Mr. Lundie says.


But Harry Beaton is not happy. Jealous of losing Jean to Charlie, he draws her into a wild sword dance at the wedding. The dance suddenly breaks off, the wounded-looking bride runs to her groom, and Harry cries out that he is leaving Brigadoon and putting an end to the miracle. All the men of the village race after him.

Harry Beaton is stopped from leaving the town, but the evening of the wedding day proves to be his funeral. Jeff confesses to Tommy that he accidentally caused Harry's death, and tells him that in a few weeks he can forget all this and be married to his girlfriend. Tommy, despite his heartfelt feelings for Fiona, tries to tell her that their love will fade in time. Fiona disagrees, saying, "I think real loneliness is no' bein' in love in vain, but no' bein' in love at all." Soon the day ends and they apparently part forever, but four months later, in a New York City bar, he realizes she was right.

A film version of this musical was made in 1954, directed by Vincente Minnelli and starring Gene Kelly as Tommy and Cyd Charisse as Fiona. (MGM spent a great deal of money on it, only to have another musical that they made, which they spent relatively little money on and had very little faith in, become their smash hit for that year.)

Tropes appearing:

  • Anything That Moves: Meg Brockie. She flirts with one of the visitors, Jeff, and tells him that there aren't enough men in Brigadoon. He replies "Enough for everyone else, or enough for you?" She even gets a song about her long string of boyfriends.
  • The City vs. the Country: The simple, idyllic country life in the tiny village of Brigadoon is contrasted with the hustle and bustle of New York City when Tommy and Jeff return there.
  • The Complainer Is Always Wrong: Harry Beaton's negative view of Brigadoon makes him not just wrong but, because of the "miracle," actively dangerous to everyone else in the village.
  • Deconstruction: The idea of a Vanishing Village being shielded from the world is deconstructed, showing what can happen when you really don't want to be there and try desperately to leave...
  • Despair Event Horizon: The wedding proves to be this for Harry. The rules of Brigadoon's miracle means that he can't leave the town, so his future is limited to the town. He can't put distance between him and Jean to try and get over her, he can't go and study at a university to make something of himself. Her wedding to someone else pushes him over the edge.
  • Good Shepherd: Mr. Forsythe in the backstory.
  • Grumpy Bear: The cynical Jeff has a sarcastic comment for almost everything that happens.
  • Innocently Insensitive: The townsfolk see that Harry Beaton is upset about being stuck in Brigadoon, but they don't seem to understand just how upset he is, and keep telling him (with varying degrees of sympathy) to get over it and settle down to the small town life he so despises, and watch the woman he loves marry someone else. It's no wonder he eventually snaps.
  • Love at First Sight: When we first see Tommy, he confides that despite being engaged he isn't sure he's even capable of love. By the end of his first scene with Fiona he has clearly changed his mind.
  • Love Transcends Spacetime: Despite Tommy's refusal to join Brigadoon, he somehow magically gets to do it 4 months later anyway.
  • Mad Love
  • One-Word Title: Named after The Place where the story happens.
  • The Place: The One-Word Title is the name of the village where the story happens.
  • Rejection Affection: In their own words, Meg is highly attracted to Jeff and Jeff wants her to go away.
  • Vanishing Village: Every one hundred years, the village of Brigadoon appears for one day.