RACHEL ROCKWELL TO HELM MAJOR "BRIGADOON" REVIVAL AT GOODMAN
by Hedy Weiss
Rachel Rockwell will be making her Goodman Theatre debut in the summer of 2014. The hugely gifted Chicago director and choreographer, who has forged an acclaimed career with revelatory, grand-scale revivals of such musicals as "Annie" and "Hair" (at Aurora's Paramount Theatre) and "The Sound of Music" and "Miss Saigon" (at Drury Lane Oakbrook), as well as the Chicago premiere of "Enron" (at TimeLine Theatre), will direct a major revival of "Brigadoon," the classic 1947 musical by Alan Jay Lerner (book and lyrics) and Fritz Loewe (music).
Rockwell has been handpicked by Liza Lerner -- daughter of Alan Jay Lerner) -- to stage the show which spins the story of a couple of New York bachelors who stumble into a mythical Scottish village locked in time. The musical hasn't been revived on Broadway since 1980, so this could turn into the precursor of a New York-bound production.
Lerner, who wasn't even born when her dad wrote "Brigadoon," first recalls seeing the musical in that 1980 edition.
"The show used to be done all the time, all over the country, and so many people I've spoken to over the years have a huge fondness for it, and for the 1954 film version [with Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse]," said Lerner, who recently produced a reimagined version of "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever" on Broadway. "After meeting Rachel, and delving into the story together, I realized immediately that she understood the magic of the show, the beauty of the songs and how much music was written just for dance sequences. We clicked immediately. It's a great fit."
The "connection" between the two women was set in motion by Rockwell's New York agent. Lerner looked at tapes of Rockwell's recent productions, heard about "the wonderful 'Sound of Music'" she had done from Ted Chapin, head of Rodgers & Hammerstein: An Imagem Company [cq] in New York, and talked to many others, including Jessie Mueller, the Chicago-bred actress who made her Broadway debut in "Clear Day."
The idea to contact the Goodman was Lerner's, though she did not know anyone there, only the theater's reputation.
"And I think Bob Falls [the Goodman's artistic director] was intrigued by the fact that I was bringing Rachel to the show, because they'd had their eye on her for a long time."
"We will revisit the show's book," Lerner added, noting that the choice of a writer "to perhaps update some dialogue and the folk elements in the story" has not yet been made.
"But the story -- about love and romance, and what one is willing to give up for such things -- really stands on its own," Lerner said.
"Our whole idea is to respect the original material, but make it fresher for a contemporary audience," said Rockwell. "I love the show's fantasy element and strong dance component, but I'd like to make the town of Brigadoon a little less tartan and adorable. I want to be specific about what period in Scotland is being referenced, and make the whole thing more tribal and sexier."
"Also, the two guys from New York who find themselves in Brigadoon were not 'period characters' when the show was created -- they were of the moment," Rockwell said. "So we are thinking about how to handle all that."
The choice of designers and a cast for the show is still "in the works." As for a Broadway future -- both Rockwell and Lerner insist they want to keep their mind on the Goodman production.