Brigadoon is a musical by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, first produced in 1947. It tells the story of a mysterious village in Scotland, which appears for only one day every hundred years. Far from being a curse, the enchantment is viewed by the villagers as a blessing. According to their covenant with God, no one from Brigadoon may ever leave the village, or the enchantment will be broken and Brigadoon and all its inhabitants will disappear into the mist forever. Two American tourists, lost in the Highlands, stumble upon the village just as a wedding is about to be celebrated, and their arrival has serious implications for the village's inhabitants.
The original Broadway production, directed by Robert Lewis and produced by Cheryl Crawford, opened March 13th, 1947. It starred David Brooks as Tommy, Marion Bell as Fiona, Lee Sullivan as Charlie, James Mitchell as Harry, and Pamela Britton as Meg. It ran for 581 performances and shared a Tony Award for Agnes De Mille's choreography. It also won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Musical, and has had many well-received revivals over the years.
A film version of Brigadoon, directed by Vincente Minnelli, was released by MGM in 1954 with Gene Kelly, Van Johnson and Cyd Charisse in leading roles. Four of the show's musical numbers ("Come to Me, Bend to Me", "There But For You Go I", "From This Day On", and "The Sword Dance") were filmed and recorded, but cut prior to the film's release. The Breen office refused to allow the use of the two songs the Meg Brockie character sang in the stage version ("The Love of My Life" and "My Mother's Wedding Day"), as the lyrics were considered too risqué for general audiences. With the omission of these songs, the supporting role of Meg Brockie was reduced in the film to scarcely more than a bit part. The minor song "Jeannie's Packin' Up" was also omitted. Some of this was done because, after listening to Gene Kelly's pre-recordings of "There But For You Go I" and "From This Day On", the makers of the film felt that the results did not show his voice to its best advantage, but some was done because producer Arthur Freed wanted to shape the two-and-a-half hour stage musical into a film that ran 108 minutes.
A 1966 television version, shown as a color special on the ABC television network, made use of a modernized, abbreviated script that accommodated much more of the score than the film version had, yet the entire production ran only ninety minutes (counting commercials). In this production, Tommy and Jeff were participating in an auto race when their car stalled just outside of Brigadoon. This version starred Robert Goulet as Tommy, Peter Falk as Jeff, and Sally Ann Howes as Fiona, with Finlay Currie in one of his last roles as Mr. Lundie, Edward Villella as Harry, and Marlyn Mason as Meg. It won several Emmy awards, while the film version won no Academy Awards. "My Mother's Wedding Day" was restored to this version, with all its so-called risqué lyrics. The only songs omitted from this version were "Once in the Highlands", "Jeannie's Packin' Up", and "The Love of My Life".
Lerner's story was based on a much older German story by Friedrich Gerstacker about the mythical, German village of Germelshausen that fell under an evil, magic curse. In 1947, memories of the second World War were too fresh to present a German-themed musical on Broadway, so Lerner reimagined the story in Scotland, complete with tartan kilts, bonnie lassies, droning bagpipes, Highland flings and “Heather on the Hill”. Lerner's name for his imaginary locale was probably based on a well-known Scottish landmark, the Brig o' Doon (Bridge of Doon), in Alloway, Scotland, in the heart of Robert Burns country. According to Burns' poem Tam o'Shanter, this 13 century stone bridge is where the legendary Tam o' Shanter fled on his horse Meg in order to escape from three witches who were chasing him. Other sources suggest that "Brigadoon" was constructed from the Gaelic words: briga which means "strife", and dùn which means "hill, hill fort, or hill village." The name may also be a reference to the Celtic Goddess Brigid, as in "Brigid's Hill." See also Alloway for another interpretation. In Scots "brig" means "bridge". It could also be a corrupted Scots-English spelling of "Break of Dawn", which, given the village's state of existence, seems to make the most sense.
New Yorkers Tommy Albright and Jeff Douglas have traveled to the Scottish Highlands on a game-hunting vacation, only to get lost their first night out. While consulting a map and discussing Tommy's general ennui, they begin to hear music ("Brigadoon"); then they notice, in a valley nearby, a small village where the map says there should be nothing! Tommy and Jeff decide to visit it, if only to get directions back to their inn, and they walk off towards it.
Meanwhile, in the town itself, a fair has begun ("McConnachy Square"), with the local vendors selling milk, ale, wool, and other products. Everyone is dressed in traditional Scottish apparel, replete with kilts, sporrans, and ghillies. We are introduced to Meg Brockie, a dairy vendor with a taste for gentlemanly companionship; Angus McGuffie, her employer; Archie Beaton, seller of wool and plaids; and his son Harry.
As the fair continues, the McLaren family enters, consisting of patriarch Andrew and his two daughters Fiona, a beautiful girl of about 24, and Jean, who is dainty and sweet and approximately 18. They are there to purchase supplies for the wedding of Jean to Charlie Dalrymple. It is revealed that Harry Beaton is still madly in love with Jean, and is very depressed at the thought of her marrying another. One of the other girls asks Fiona when she will get married, and she responds, "When I find someone who makes me think of it." She explains why she would rather wait than marry the wrong person ("Waitin' For My Dearie").
Just then, Tommy and Jeff wander in from the hillside. They and the Scottish folks stare at each other with bewilderment until Tommy asks where they are, and is told "Brigadoon." Fiona introduces herself to Tommy, and offers the Americans a bite to eat and a place to rest. Meg immediately takes a liking to Jeff and leads him off, as Charlie Dalrymple appears. He's a handsome young man of about 24. He shares some celebratory claret with Tommy, toasting to a Mr. Forsythe whom he thanks for "postponing the miracle." Tommy asks what he means by this, but Fiona shushes him and leads him away, as Charlie sings about the end of his bachelorhood ("Go Home with Bonnie Jean").
Tommy and Fiona return and talk about his impending marriage to his fiancée Jane; clearly Tommy is in no hurry to marry her, and sparks begin to fly between him and Fiona when she reveals that she likes him very much, although "dinna" likes anything he says. She attempts to leave to gather heather for the wedding, but Tommy insists on going with her ("The Heather on the Hill").
In the next scene, Meg has taken Jeff to a place in the forest with a cot where he can rest. She tells him she's "highly attracted" to him, but he wants nothing but sleep and spurns her advances. She reveals her sordid love life ("The Love Of My Life") as he falls asleep.
The scene changes again, this time to the McLaren home, where all of Jean's friends are helping her pack her things to move into Charlie's home ("Jeannie's Packin' Up"). Charlie appears to sign the McLaren family bible, and tries to see Jean, but is told it's bad luck to see her on the wedding day; he begs for her to come out anyway ("Come To Me, Bend To Me"). The girls disperse as Tommy and Fiona enter with a basket full of heather they've picked. Fiona follows Jean upstairs to help her dress for the wedding, and Jeff enters wearing a pair of Highland trews (trousers); apparently his own pants have been damaged on a "thistle." Jeff asks Tommy how he feels, and Tommy is so happy that he can barely contain it ("Almost Like Being In Love").
Then Tommy notices the family bible, which contains the names of all the people he's met that day, but every important event attached to them, including the impending wedding of Charlie and Jean, is listed as if it had happened two hundred years earlier. He calls Fiona down to question her about this, and she tells him he'll have to see the local schoolmaster, Mr. Lundie, to get the full explanation.
Fiona, Tommy, and Jeff arrive at Mr. Lundie's home, where he gives the two New Yorkers a story they can hardly believe: two hundred years ago, the local parish pastor prayed to God to have Brigadoon disappear, only to reappear for one day every 100 years, to protect it from being changed by the outside world. None of the people of Brigadoon can be permitted to leave the town or it will disappear forever. Tommy, looking at Fiona, asks hypothetically if an outsider could be permitted to stay. Mr. Lundie replies, "A stranger can stay if he loves someone here - not jus' Brigadoon, mind ye, but someone in Brigadoon - enough to want to give up everythin' an' stay with that one person. Which is how it should be. 'Cause after all, lad, if he love someone deeply, anythin' is possible."
The group leaves to go to the wedding, which opens with the Clans coming in from out of the hills. Charlie and Jean are married by Mr. Lundie, and they perform a traditional wedding dance to celebrate. After a time, sword dancers appear, led by Harry, and they put their weapons on the ground and "spin like dervishes." The rest of the town joins in the dance, but abruptly halt as Jean's scream alerts them to Harry trying to kiss her. He announces that he's leaving the town (thereby ending the miracle and causing Brigadoon to disappear into the Highland mists) and sprints away as Act I ends.
As the curtain opens, the men of the town are frantically trying to find Harry before he can set foot outside of the town ("The Chase"). The music becomes more and more agitated, and suddenly, an agonized scream is heard. Harry Beaton is found dead by the other men, assuming he must have fallen on a rock and crushed his skull. The men decide not to tell the rest of the town until the next morning, so that the wedding can continue without further grief. The men carry Harry's body away, and Fiona and her father come on stage to see if everything is all right. Mr. McLaren leaves as Tommy reenters; he and Fiona embrace. She reveals her love for him, and he tells her he believes he feels the same way ("There But For You Go I"). Fiona reminds him that the end of the day is near, and Tommy tells her he wants to stay in Brigadoon with her. They leave to find Mr. Lundie.
Meanwhile, the men have returned to town, where Meg is telling about the day her parents were drunkenly married ("My Mother's Wedding Day"), and the townsfolk begin to relax and dance again, until the sound of the Highland Pipes pierces the air. Archie Beaton enters carrying Harry's body, led by the pipers playing a piobaireachd, and Maggie Anderson, who loved Harry, performs a funeral dance for her unrequited love. The men of Brigadoon help Archie carry his son to the burial place.
Tommy finds Jeff and tells him of his plans to stay. Jeff thinks the idea absurd, and argues with Tommy until he has convinced him that Brigadoon is nothing but a dream. He also admits that it was he who tripped Harry and accidentally killed him. Fiona and Mr. Lundie enter, and Tommy, shaken by Jeff's confession, tells Fiona that even though he loves her, he can't stay because he can't shake his fears and doubts ("From This Day On"). Fiona tells Tommy that she'll love him forever as she fades away into the darkness.
Four months later, we find Jeff back in New York, drinking heavily at a hotel bar. Tommy enters, and the two have a joyous reunion, as Tommy has been living on a farm in New Hampshire since his return from Scotland. He tells Jeff that he's still in love with Fiona; he can't stop thinking about her, and daydreams of her constantly, to the point of being unable to hold a conversation with anyone. Jane Ashford, his fiancée, a beautiful socialite in her late 20s, enters as Jeff exits, and begins to talk to Tommy, but everything she says causes him to hear Fiona's voice and dream of Brigadoon (Reprises of "Come to Me, Bend to Me," "Heather on the Hill"). Tommy suddenly interrupts her and tells her that he can't marry her. She argues with him, but he continues to daydream about his true love (Reprises of "Go Home With Bonnie Jean," "From This Day On"). As Jane leaves, Tommy calls Jeff and tells him he wants to return to Scotland, even though he knows it won't do any good.
In the final scene, Tommy and Jeff have returned to the spot where Brigadoon was; as expected, there's nothing there. Tommy laments, "Why do people have to lose things to find out what they really mean?" Just as he and Jeff turn to leave, they hear the music again ("Brigadoon"), and Mr. Lundie appears. Tommy walks across the bridge to him, as Mr. Lundie explains: "You shouldna be too surprised, lad. I told ye when ye love someone deeply, anythin' is possible. Even miracles." Tommy waves goodbye to Jeff, who stares incredulously as Tommy and Mr. Lundie disappear into the mist.