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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.)

Provides examples of:

  • Accidental Murder: Jeff trips Harry, not intending for him to fall to his death.
  • Agent Scully: Jeff explains at the beginning that he only believes in what he can perceive with his senses. He's also slower than Tommy to believe in the magical nature of Brigadoon, instead regarding the people of the town as amusing eccentrics.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Even after he put the entire village in danger by trying to flee, Harry's death is treated sympathetically. The entire town mourns him and make it clear that while they wanted him to stay, no one wanted him to die; Maggie grieves for him through dance, the wedding grounds to a halt, and the entire village joins the resulting funeral proceedings. Even Jeff, his accidental killer, feels incredibly guilty over it.
  • The Alcoholic: Jeff says he tried to cut down for a girlfriend who constantly pleaded with him to stop, but when he did they had nothing to talk about. He gets even worse after leaving Brigadoon and desperately tries to suppress his guilt over killing Harry.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Maggie is in love with Harry who is in love with Jean who is marrying Charlie. Meg is enamored with Jeff who is uninterested. Tommy is unhappily engaged to Jane but is falling in love with Fiona.
  • Anti-Villain: Harry's rage at the entire town of Brigadoon ends up making him decide to flee the village, even though he knows that doing so will kill everyone inside. However, it's made clear that while he is angry at everyone, his actions are not out of malice, they're out of sheer desperation to escape having to live next to the woman he loves after she's married someone else and a desire to actually make something out of his life.
  • 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.
  • The Cynic: The cynical Jeff has a sarcastic comment for almost everything that happens.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Jeff has a sarcastic remark for everyone.
  • 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 and he decides to flee the village, even though he knows doing so would kill everyone else. Instead, he ends up getting tripped by Jeff and falls to his death.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Harry is the closest thing the musical has to an actual antagonist, but he dies at the very beginning of Act II, leaving the romance plot between Tommy and Fiona as the story's only remaining loose end.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Harry Beaton is pining for Jean on her wedding day.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Jeff is already an alcoholic at the beginning, but after accidentally killing Harry Beaton, his drinking gets to the point where even the bartender is concerned.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Meg describes her family in "My Mother's Wedding Day"; guests, bride, and groom all getting up to drunken antics, while young Meg watches.
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: Played for Drama; Jeff sees the evidence with his own eyes that the city really is from 200 years ago, and even starts to enjoy himself in it, but convinces himself that it's nothing more than a dream so he doesn't have to deal with his guilt over killing Harry. After Tommy makes it come back and leaves him to stay there, the final moments of the musical are Jeff coming to terms with the irrefutable proof that it was all real.
  • Good Shepherd: Mr. Forsythe in the backstory; he prayed for the miracle.
  • Grey-and-Grey Morality: Harry wants to flee the village even though it would make Brigadoon disappear forever because he would have no say in the life he would live if he were to stay, plus he would be stuck in a small village with the woman he loved who married another man. The men of the village want to stop him, which would condemn him to a life he would absolutely hate, because they don't want to die. No one is happy with the situation, and the men are all devastated when Harry dies, but given the circumstances, no one involved has any choice in the matter.
  • Heart Is Where the Home Is: Inverted. The American guy chooses the Scottish lassie over his New York fiancee.
  • 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 all genuine attempts to help him and no one in town dislikes him at all, but 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. Mr. Lundie attributes it to The Power of Love.
  • Mad Love: Harry Beaton is driven to what's essentially an attempted mass murder-suicide over not being able to be with Jean.
  • One-Word Title: Named after The Place where the story happens.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: In the film, much of the cast struggles with holding a Scottish accent and you can hear their American accents frequently coming through.
  • 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.
  • Really Gets Around: 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.
  • Retcon: After leaving Brigadoon, Tommy mentions that he's struggled to hold conversations with people because he'll hear a phrase that reminds him of Brigadoon and then he'll get lost in the memories. In the following scene, we see this happen three times accompanied to songs being reprised, and two of those three times (with the reprising songs being "Come to Me, Bend to Me", and "I'll Go Home With Bonnie Jean") have him flash back to scenes that he didn't actually witness.
  • Romantic False Lead: Really, did ANYBODY think Tommy would end up with the woman who's only ever mentioned and appears in one scene.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: The cost of the miracle protecting Brigadoon is that if any of the residents leave, the village and everyone in it will vanish forever. Harry Beaton desperately wants to leave and acts on it at the wedding, but he's accidentally killed before he can leave.
  • Vanishing Village: Every one hundred years, the village of Brigadoon appears for one day.
  • Witch with a Capital "B": When Mr. Lundie asks if they still have witches, Jeff responds "We still do. We pronounce it differently."
  • Year Outside, Hour Inside: Brigadoon shows up once every one-hundred years, but to the people inside the town those days between are only one night's sleep.