1979 Brigadoon

BWT Review

An English slant on a Scottish musical

Witham Operatic Society

UP to now, I have always considered the musical Brigadoon to be something of a plastic thistle when performed by an English company. For the liquid consonants of the Scots are denied them and, truth to tell, not many filter through to the members of Witham Operatic Society. But this week's presentation at the Public hall of the fey story of a little Highland village which comes to life for only one day in every 100 years is a noble effort. If the dream-like atmosphere is confined to a gauze curtain and a few puffs of smoke there is great power and attack in Derek Collins’ production and Cynthia Stead’s dance routines delight the eye.

Popular Jon Cave is at the top of his form as Tommy Albright, the American who stumbles into a fairy tale and blonde, smiling Helene Jones makes him a tuneful partner. The libretto is underwritten for comedy but Janet Collins makes the most of the comic possibilities of crack-pot Meg Brockie with a vivacious performance.

Tim Sheppard, as the unfortunate Harry Ritchie, that suitable case for treatment, grabs the drama with both hands and his sword dance with partners Brian Henderson and Alan Bywaters is a high spot of the show.

Patsy Doy makes a graceful bride but a wedding dress that includes a night-cap surely indicates an undue sense of anticipation. As her future husband Malcolm Watson sings delightfully and Ewart Cornfield provides a telling character study of an auld Scots worthy. Rita Page, George Flint, Andy Beaven, Malcolm Lowe and Ernie Law all distinguish themselves in smaller parts while Dick Camp raises the temperature considerably with some fine work on the bag-pipes.

The producer himself, as the hard-boiled companion of Tommy, shows us how to make a small part glitter and Cynthia Stead brings the art of the ballet to her reading of Maggie Abernethy.

Very suitably they had gone to Edinburgh for the costumes which are very grand, the lighting is sympathetic though prone to sudden unexpected changes and, as ever, Ken Ferris controls the orchestra pit with a sure and sensitive hand.

Gilbert Sutcliffe

Weekly News Review

Brigadoon — Witham Musical and Operatic Society

Having a Highland fling

THE Highlanders had their fling at the Public Hall, Witham this week, when Witham Musical and Operatic Society woke up the sleepy, misty village of Brigadoon for another day amidst the Scottish pines and the heather on the hills and its haunting, palatable melodies. Although American in creation, with less subtle humour and sentimentality to match, Brigadoon makes a colourful show, especially when backed by Ken Ferris‘ bouncing, foot-tappingorchestra and real piper, Dick Camps, squeezing the bags. The primary colours of the costumes and the sets too in Derek Collins’ production, were a splendid idea, giving an overall tartan effect to reiterate the kilts and the sporans.

While not being an outstanding presentation this one had its quota of charm. I especially enjoyed the clear voice of Ewart Cornfield, who unfolded the miracle. The freshness of Malcolm Watson, when he was ‘going home with Bonnie Jean’ was beautiful. Helene Jones’ accent was slightly Irish but her singing was delightful and she looked lovely. The atmosphere was convincing.

It was the little extras that wove the spell — the stereo effect of the chorus at the beginning, papier-macho deer that was carried across stage, the sword dancers and the chase of Tim Sheppard. Occasionally, the stage seemed rather cluttered, as seen from the back row, yet they managed to find room for some pretty dancing as well as the action and songs.

Maybe I won't rush out to buy any porridge, but I wouldn't mind being around when they wake up again in the next century.


Chronicle Review


THERE'S magic in the air at the Public Hall, Witham, this week as the Operatic Society perform Brigadoon, that most popular fairy story set to music – the finale of act one is worth the price of admission alone.

The stage is crowded with bonnie lasses and braw lads dressed in authentic tartans. There's Dick Cant, a fine performer on the bagpipes, and Messrs Sheppard, Henderson, and Bywaters perform a breath-taking sword dance.

Tall, handsome Jo Cave is a splendid voice as Tommy, the romantic American, who lays siege to the heart of pretty Fiona, sung and acted with tremendous charm by Helene Jones.
Cynthia Stead is the clever choreographer who has them all skipping around in Scottish style. She is no mean prima ballerina herself in the part of Maggie, while Janet Collins scores as the zany Meg Brockie - every village has one.

A shade slow and deliberate on the first night but with promise of a great show to come. Ewart Cornfield - excellent as the canny Dominie with a touch of the gaelic.

Ken Ferris and his orchestra play the well-loved tunes agreeably and Derek Collins’s production is chock full of good things. Go and see it before the end of the week, if you can get in.

Jon Richards