In Lerner & Loewe's 1947 musical fantasy Brigadoon, two traveling American hunters come upon a tiny Scottish village from the 1700s that, as it turns out, appears from the highland mists for a single day only once every 100 years. That's about how often modern theater companies take on the tuneful yet dated musical, which is remembered primarily for a somewhat creaky 1954 film starring Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse.
So why did director Gene Abravaya elect to stage the show as part of the current season of the new Spreckels Theater Company?
The answer is simple: the play changed his life.
"There are two shows in my life that have made an incredible impact," Abravaya reveals. "One was Camelot, the very first show I ever saw, and the other was Brigadoon, the very first show I ever acted in, in high school. That was a time in my life when I was having a lot of personal problems. My parents had just split up, my father left town—and I really needed something to cling to. Being part of the drama club, and being a part of the cast of Brigadoon, with its uplifting messages and magical vibe, it just helped keep me going at a time when things were pretty rough."
Since, Abravaya has hoped to someday return to Brigadoon, and he's finally doing it, presenting the beguiling but rare story of a lonely modern-day guy accidentally discovering love, safety and a sense of purpose when he wanders into little Brigadoon on the sole day it rematerializes.
"I've always carried an affection for this show, and wanted to someday direct it," Abravaya says. His production opens this weekend, in a staging that combines authentic costumes, elements of which were acquired earlier this year in Scotland, with high-tech effects and projections that bring the hills and heather of the Scottish countryside onto the stage.
"Spreckels has a stage big enough for a show like this," he explains, "and we do fill this stage—with actors, with dancers, with gorgeous set pieces and props and slide projections and video sequences. It's going to be quite beautiful."
Abravaya believes that the time is right for audiences to rediscover the show that has always meant so much to him.
"The message of the show is simple," he says. "The message is that there are places, places we long for in our heart—and some of us are lucky enough to find that in our lives.
'Brigadoon' runs Oct.11–27, at the Spreckels Performing Arts Center. 5409 Snyder Lane, Rohnert Park. Showtimes vary. $22-$26. 707.588.3400.