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Agnes de MilleTelling Stories in Broadway Dance$

Kara Anne Gardner

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199733682

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199733682.001.0001

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Shaping the Story of Brigadoon

Shaping the Story of Brigadoon

(p.117) 6 Shaping the Story of Brigadoon
Agnes de Mille

Kara Anne Gardner

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

Brigadoon was one of de Mille’s most successful musicals and one of her happiest collaborations. The show drew on many stylistic sources, including modern dance, traditional Scottish dance, and ballet. De Mille and director Robert Lewis worked closely together to create seamless transitions between dialogue scenes and dance numbers. They also staged a chase scene and a funeral dance, emphasizing a minor character, Harry Beaton, who threatens to destroy the mythical Scottish village by leaving it forever. Beaton’s character serves to complicate an otherwise sentimental plot, providing an example of the way de Mille’s choreography contributed a distinct layer of meaning to the musical as a whole.

Keywords:   Brigadoon, Alan Jay Lerner, Frederick Loewe, James Mitchell, Lidjia Franklin, Harry Beaton, traditional Scottish dance, Robert Lewis, Cheryl Crawford

In June 1945, just weeks after the Carousel premiere, de Mille went to London to work on the film London Town in hopes of reuniting with her husband. The film work was really an excuse for her to travel to Europe. In her letters to Walter, she made it clear that she could not go abroad without some kind of work planned. She wrote, “Sending a civilian in or out of the country is a complicated undertaking these days, and neither British nor American state departments will tolerate the idea of anyone crossing for personal reasons.”1 She considered other schemes, including a USO tour to entertain the troupes, but the offer to work on the film came through first. She rushed to England as soon as she could, fearing that Walter might be moved to Germany or the Pacific before she had the chance to see him. When she arrived, her work on London Town did not go well. De Mille was so unhappy with the final product that she paid $4,000 to ensure that her name would not appear in the credits.2 However, she did get her much-anticipated reunion with Walter. He was given a three-week leave, and during that time, they conceived a child.

In August 1945, Walter got the dreaded orders and boarded a ship bound for combat, but within days nuclear bombs were dropped on Japan and the war came to an abrupt end. Walter’s ship changed course and he returned to New York. A few months later, de Mille disentangled herself from her job in London, and she and her husband began the first days of their married life together, without the anxiety of pending separation hanging over them. Their only child, Jonathan Prude, was born on April 20, 1946. He suffered from Hirschprung’s disease, an intestinal disorder that prevents normal bowel movements.3 He often required hospitalization, and his poor health took a toll on his parents, who had little chance to settle into a domestic routine before he was born. Despite the demands of her life at home with her husband and newborn child, work remained de Mille’s lifeblood, and she could not stay away from it for long.

After he left the service, Walter found a job as assistant to Sol Hurok, a legendary figure who managed some of the most famous dancers and musicians (p.118) of his era.4 Hurok also helped introduce ballet to American audiences through the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and the Sadler’s Wells ballet. Walter spent thirty-one years working for Hurok, eventually becoming vice president of the management company. He provided enough financial support for his wife and son, but de Mille found she could not rest on her laurels and settle quietly into domestic bliss. She did not follow the path that many women did after World War II, abandoning the workforce once the soldiers returned home to reclaim their jobs. She wondered how she would balance the demands of work and family, asking herself “how could I serve child and husband with a rehearsal schedule that hitherto had never provided sufficient leisure for hair washing?”5

Regardless of her concerns, even while she was still pregnant, de Mille was scouting projects. She started collaborating with Aaron Copland, Lynn Riggs, and designer Oliver Smith on a musical treatment of the Erskine Caldwell novel Tragic Ground.6 She planned to provide the dances for the show and possibly even serve as its director. Around the same time, Smith also tried to recruit her to choreograph Billion Dollar Baby with music by Morton Gould, but she turned him down because of her pregnancy. That show went to Jerome Robbins, and Tragic Ground was abandoned in late 1946 because the collaborators could not raise sufficient funds to put it on the stage. Still, de Mille had a myriad of other offers because of her professional standing. Soon after Jonathan was born, she sent for the housekeeper who had cared for her while she was pregnant in England to help with the baby and take over her domestic duties. She recommenced her Acting for Dancers classes. She revived her original role in Three Virgins and a Devil with Ballet Theatre on October 27, only six months after giving birth. And on November 21, she signed a contract to direct the dances for Brigadoon.

De Mille had a more profound influence over the Brigadoon production than she did over Carousel. In many ways, the predictions John Martin made after the Bloomer Girl premiere came true with Brigadoon—the roles of choreographer and director merged, and de Mille helped to shape the look and mood of the entire production. Unlike Carousel, where her contributions were mostly limited to the three ballets, her contract for Brigadoon stated that she would stage both the dances and the musical numbers.7 She also worked intimately during rehearsals with director Robert Lewis. Their shared vision created a sense of unity among all the disparate aspects of the show, including movement, staging, lighting, costume design, and even character development. Together, they strove to make smooth transitions into and out of the dances by transforming ordinary movements into choreographed steps. De Mille’s dances were not set pieces or segregated ballets. They occurred naturally as (p.119) part of the plot—a traditional sword dance was performed during a wedding, and a funeral dance occurred to mourn a character’s death. And finally, de Mille was responsible for creating the character of Harry Beaton, almost entirely through movement. Beaton’s character, and what happened to him, played a central role in the message of the play. When it opened on Broadway, Brigadoon appeared seamless. Because of its innovative staging, it represented another milestone for the genre of the musical.

Brigadoon’s Genesis

Brigadoon was de Mille’s first collaboration with the soon-to-be famous duo of Lerner and Loewe. The two men met in August of 1942, at the Lambs Club in midtown Manhattan. The Lambs club was a prestigious theatrical club, whose members included Charlie Chaplin, Cecil B. De Mille, Fred Astaire, and Rodgers and Hammerstein. Lerner and Loewe encountered one another at the club’s grill, and Loewe, who was forty-one, approached Lerner, just shy of his twenty-fourth birthday, to replace lyricist Earle Crooker on an adaptation of a Barry Conners play called The Patsy. Lerner eagerly signed on. He and Loewe completed the show, now titled Life of the Party, and it had a successful nine-week run in Detroit. Not long after, they made their Broadway debut with a musical called What’s Up? In it, an Air Force plane is flying a Sultan to the United States, and the plane has to make an emergency landing. Unfortunately, it lands on the grounds of an all-girls school where everyone is quarantined due to a measles outbreak. Comedy ensues when the Sultan, who cannot leave until the quarantine ends, lustily pursues the pretty girls surrounding him. The show, choreographed and staged by George Balanchine, opened in November of 1943 and ran for eight weeks. It faced stiff competition, with Oklahoma! and One Touch of Venus still running on Broadway. It had only sixty-three performances and remains a footnote in theater history. Lerner and Loewe’s next collaboration was called The Day before Spring, a musical about a man and a woman who were once in love and have lost touch. After many years, they find themselves reconnecting at a college reunion. The show featured the fantasy characters of Freud, Voltaire, and Plato, and each act contained a ballet by Antony Tudor, whose choreography received negative reviews. Lerner and Loewe contributed a few successful but now-forgotten songs. The show had a five-month run, and the film rights were bought by MGM, so both men began to see promise in their relationship. They quickly and eagerly began work on another project, which Lerner said he first conceptualized as “a play about faith moving a mountain. From there we went to all (p.120) sorts of miracles occurring through faith and eventually, faith moved a town.”8 That play would become Brigadoon.

Brigadoon tells the story of an imaginary Scottish village that comes to life only once every one hundred years. In 1746, two hundred years before the present-day setting of the play, a minister prayed that his village, Brigadoon, would disappear into the mist to protect it from a plague of witches. His fervent hope was that its villagers would only awaken once each century, so that they could be shielded “from all the evils that might come to Brigadoon from the outside world.”9 Two jaded New Yorkers from the dreaded outside world stumble across the village while on a hunting trip. One of the men, Tommy, falls in love with Fiona, who has spent all of her young life in Brigadoon. In order to be with her, Tommy has to become a permanent resident of the mystical Scottish hamlet. Lerner’s story had an escapist, anti-modern bent that appealed to postwar audiences.

Lerner and Loewe convinced Cheryl Crawford to produce the musical, and she suggested that they enlist de Mille to devise the dances. By this time, de Mille had enormous prestige on Broadway, having been associated with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s first two history-making productions. Lerner and Loewe had promise but no track record, and director Robert Lewis had never worked on a musical, so de Mille brought experience and status to the otherwise rather green group of collaborators. When she heard the songs from Brigadoon, she was enchanted, especially by the music and lyrics for the love song “Come to Me, Bend to Me.” She did not feel so inspired by the plot.

Robert Lewis shared de Mille’s misgivings about Lerner’s libretto. In his memoir, he described a meeting with de Mille in a quiet bar, before rehearsals began. Over martinis, they strategized about how they might “neutralize the operetta-like goo in the story.” He claimed that, by the end of their discussion, “the inherent whimsy [of the plot] was alleviated by the addition of a violent chase, a stately sword dance, and a powerful funeral.”10 Lewis’s memory of events may be slightly inaccurate. De Mille’s Brigadoon contract identified “The Chase” as one of the numbers she had been hired to stage, so presumably Lerner and Loewe had already conceptualized that scene when she began work on the production.11 However, it is significant that Lewis identified the chase, the sword dance, and the funeral as the scenes that added depth to Brigadoon’s plot. All of those scenes hinged on the fate of Harry Beaton, a character almost entirely of de Mille’s invention. Beaton is a brooding young man who is not content with his life in Brigadoon. He wants to marry Jean, but she loves Charlie instead of him. He wants to go to university and see the world, but he is confined forever to his small village. If anyone leaves, the miracle of Brigadoon will end and it will disappear. De Mille seized (p.121) on Harry and his situation, choosing to emphasize the fragility of the faith that Brigadoon represented. She created a number of traditional dances that helped convey the spirit and the setting of the magical Scottish hamlet, but she also devised some innovative ways to bring a darker twist to Lerner’s plot.

Blending a Diversity of Styles

In Brigadoon, de Mille found uses for the vast array of styles she had accumulated over her years of studying ballet, folk, and modern dance idioms. She used every tool available to her to help bring the mythical Scottish village to life and to tell the stories of its people. She believed, in fact, that the character of the Scottish people could be understood through their dances. She wrote:

In all folk forms there is a residuum of race experience, what Martha Graham refers to as “an aura of race memory” and although folk steps may often seem simple and capable of performance by ordinary people, the fact that they have been performed by ordinary people for generations lends them their significance. There is living and dying in them.12

When she began work on the show, she enlisted May Gadd, the expert in folk dance with whom she had worked on Oklahoma!, to help her re-create authentic Scottish steps. She also turned to James Jamieson, a champion Highland dancer, to instruct the company. Scottish dance had its roots in the eighteenth-century French ballet tradition, so that its vocabulary shared a great deal with the ballet steps that were familiar to de Mille and her dancers. Traditional Scottish dances like the fling and the sword dance were woven effortlessly into movements drawn from ballet and modern vocabulary. Helen Gallagher, who went on to starring roles in shows such as The Pajama Game, Guys and Dolls, and Sweet Charity, was twenty-one years old when she appeared in de Mille’s Brigadoon chorus. She remembered that de Mille brought in Jamieson to work with the cast, but “we didn’t end up doing what he showed us.”13 As in Oklahoma!, the dances for Brigadoon had their roots in tradition but also contained an element of stylization. De Mille knew how to move an audience, so she adapted the traditional folk dance steps into flashier moves, or into steps that could convey powerful emotions. She had to go beyond ethnography and into the realm of theater.

De Mille choreographed ballets following the songs “Bonnie Jean” and “Come to Me, Bend to Me”; a sword dance and a wedding dance following the marriage of Jean and Charlie; a comical number, similar in tone to Joan McCracken’s famous “T’morra” striptease from Bloomer Girl, that followed the song “My Mother’s Weddin’ Day”; and a powerful funeral dance in the (p.122) second act. All six of these dances drew on traditional Scottish steps, but they each had their own style that suited the emotion and tone they needed to capture. “My Mother’s Weddin’ Day” was a comical number that featured several men, clad in kilts and unsteady with drink, reenacting Meg Brockie’s tale of her mother’s disastrous nuptials. In contrast, the funeral dance featured stark and powerful Graham-influenced movements to depict the grief felt by Maggie, the girl who loved Harry, on her discovery of his death. De Mille had always drawn from a diversity of styles, using whatever she needed to get her point across. Brigadoon combines Scottish dance, ballet steps, and modern movement techniques, exemplifying the hybrid style that had come to define her work.

Although de Mille wanted to insert some grittier elements in the show, she also conceived the poignant “Come to Me, Bend to Me,” danced by Jean and her girlfriends just after Charlie has sung her a love song through the door of her home on the eve of their wedding. Lerner’s lyrics and Loewe’s melody for this song helped convince de Mille to sign on for the musical. When she heard it she said “bend to me—now that’s poetry.”14 The song has a simple melody and a moderate waltz tempo. It was orchestrated with strings and a few touches of bells. When Charlie sings “Give me your lips … and don’t take them away,” he lingers expressively on the word “lips,” the high point in the melody, and his longing feels sweet and palpable. His declaration of love has an appealing earnestness, free of modern cynicism. It represents the romanticized, ideal kind of love that inspired Lerner to write the play.

Shaping the Story of Brigadoon

Photo 6.1 Brigadoon (1947–1948). Shown: Virginia Bosler. Courtesy of Photofest.

De Mille set the dance that follows “Come to Me, Bend to Me” for Jean and her girlfriends, an all-female group of innocents on the verge of womanhood, reminiscent of the young girls in “Many a New Day” (Oklahoma!) or “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over” (Carousel).15 When Charlie finishes his song, the girls send him away, since he cannot see the bride on the eve of the wedding. Then they begin to dance. Their movements perfectly suit the yearning tone and the rhythm of the song. They form a circle, with Jean in the center, and for a moment the girls with their backs to the audience block our view of the young bride. The heads of the girls are bowed, as if they feel some sadness in this last evening gathering with their unmarried friend. Jean steps out of the circle, pauses twice in arabesques, then is drawn backward again into the circle, a bit reluctant to separate from this community of women. Slowly, the girls sway together in their circle, back and forth. Jean keeps breaking away from them and returning. Then de Mille uses Scottish steps to show Jean’s excitement. Unable to contain herself, she breaks away from the other girls and performs the steps of the Highland fling, enhanced with leaps of de Mille’s devising. It looks like she is dancing a jig, finally letting some of her joyous excitement spill out.

(p.123) The girls perform some striking lifts in the dance, revealing themselves as strong, supportive, and loving. At one point, two girls stand on either side of Jean and, while moving forward, they lift her by the legs while she rests her hands on their shoulders. The lifting of women by women diverges from the model of classical ballet and gives us the sense that men are unnecessary, at least for this moment of bonding. At the end of the dance, the girls quietly depart, leaving Jean alone with her thoughts. Jean takes a shawl from the stage, near the footlights, and drapes it over her head like a veil. She slowly sits down on her wedding trunk, shoes in her lap, contemplating what lies before her.

This dance echoes much of de Mille’s preceding work. The girls are young and sweet, and Jean’s exuberance is infectious on this very important night in her young life. But something about these women also recalls the women of the Civil War Ballet. They have a sense of solidarity with one another, and their bowed heads signal that Jean and Charlie’s life will be touched by tragedy. De Mille very subtly foreshadows the conflict that will arise at the wedding between Charlie and Jean’s rival suitor, Harry Beaton. We get a glimpse of Jean’s anxiety as she pulls away from her friends and then finds herself pulled back into their gentle embrace. Even during a dance in which Harry Beaton is not present, the dark shadow he casts over the village of Brigadoon remains palpable. Harry Beaton’s story and the tension that his (p.124) character brings to the drama unify all of the contributions that de Mille made to the musical.

Creating Harry Beaton

The process by which de Mille built up Harry Beaton’s character in Brigadoon parallels the techniques she used to bring the character of Louise to life in Carousel. In Lerner’s libretto, Harry has only a few lines. In Act I, scene 2, he is introduced as the young man who is in love with Jean, and we learn that she has rejected him. He is the son of a tailor and he yearns for education, but he cannot leave Brigadoon. He complains to Jean that he’s “trapped forever without you in this yokel’s village,” lamenting that Charlie “got everythin’—University at Edinburgh—and now you—and I’ve got nothin’.”16 Charlie had already attended university before the spell was cast on Brigadoon and everyone decided to remain there forever. Harry’s father suggests that he pursue Maggie, who has “a yearnin’” for him, but he exits, defeated. In Act I, scene 4, we see Harry again, delivering a waistcoat to Jean’s father just before the wedding. He gives his most revealing speech of the play: “I canna leave here—I canna go to the University—an’ make somethin’ of myself—an’ I canna have Jeannie. So there’s nothing left to do but hate everythin’ an everybody in this cursed village.”17 These two scenes make up the extent of Harry Beaton’s character without de Mille’s dances.

Alan Lerner had the idea to include at least one resident of Brigadoon who felt angry about his confinement in the village. De Mille built her concept of the show around this germ of an idea. She did not simply play up the love triangle between Jean, Harry, and Charlie. She was asking larger questions. What if one of the residents of Brigadoon felt duped by its miracle? What if he decided to leave? How would the other villagers respond to his threats? James Mitchell, who played Beaton in the original production, remembered that in the libretto, Harry “had four lines, maybe five. … Because he couldn’t get the girl who was getting married, he threatened to destroy the town, that was written.” But then de Mille “shaped the dances around how the character was involved in the story.”18 Beaton was at the center of de Mille’s mind as she created the dances for Brigadoon.

Shaping the Story of Brigadoon

Photo 6.2 James Mitchell seated, wearing rolled up trousers and scarf, holding a sword and a cane during a rehearsal of Brigadoon (1947). Jerome Robbins Dance Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations.

Just as the role of Louise was built around Bambi Linn, one of de Mille’s favorite dancers, the role of Harry Beaton was designed for Mitchell. He had first worked with de Mille on Bloomer Girl, where he played a Civil War soldier, paired with Lidjia Franklin, who also played his love interest in Brigadoon. Mitchell grew up on a farm near Sacramento, and in his late teens he studied modern dance in southern California with Lester Horton, a teacher whom de (p.125) Mille viewed with disdain as derivative of Martha Graham. He had no ballet technique to speak of when he auditioned for Bloomer Girl, but he had powerful stage presence and striking good looks. Although in reality he was modest, kind, and even-tempered, his dark hair and chiseled features allowed him to look the part of a rejected and restless suitor.

Mitchell also had a talent for acting. De Mille had him in mind to play Beaton even before she signed her own contract for Brigadoon. She wrote to Lucia Chase, one of the founders of Ballet Theatre: “Jim will be a big name next spring. He is going to play a speaking and dancing role in Brigadoo [sic] that I think will be the most interesting part of the show.”19 From the beginning, de Mille wove Mitchell, as Harry Beaton, into the majority of the dances, using him at several key moments. Mitchell remembered it as the role (p.126) of a lifetime: “First Act curtain, Beaton. The second act opening was Harry Beaton. And those were two of the high points in the show, as far as story and as far as choreography. So it was terrific for Agnes and for me.”20 Beaton’s fight with Charlie closed the first act, and the chase scene that led to his death opened the second act. Except for a few lines, audiences came to understand his character and the impact he had on the other characters in the show solely through dance and stage direction. Since there was no mention of dance in Lerner’s original libretto for Brigadoon, Harry Beaton’s character resulted largely from de Mille’s ideas, in collaboration with Lewis.21

There was no full-length, independent ballet in Brigadoon to make Harry Beaton known to the audience, the way there was for Laurey in Oklahoma! or Louise in Carousel. De Mille moved away from the patterns critics had begun to view as formulaic. Instead, she wove Beaton’s character throughout several scenes and dances so that he would seem ever-present in the show.22 The first time we see him dancing is in the “I’ll Go Home with Bonnie Jean” number from Act 1. Maggie, who we already know is in love with Harry, leads the dance, but she is flirting with Charlie, Jean’s betrothed. Maggie’s flirting seems innocent enough, but soon Harry enters, and the focus shifts to him and his pursuit of Maggie. Until now, the music has echoed the simple and lighthearted melody of the “Bonnie Jean” song. Harry’s entrance is accompanied by a solo oboe playing what sounds like a traditional Scottish folk melody, which is still dancelike, but in a minor key. The listener cannot help but notice the subtle change in mood. Harry calls out “Hey, Maggie!” and everyone on stage turns and looks. Maggie herself “stops, turns, smiles, tucks up her skirt, and gets into position for [their] dance.”23 The vocabulary de Mille uses here is largely Scottish. The dancers perform traditional Highland fling steps and Scottish pas de basques.24 They also execute some startling lifts that are signature de Mille. At one especially precarious moment, the boys swing the girls across their bodies and up over their heads. The girls hold their bodies stiffly, and they end up with their pointed toes in the air and their heads hanging perilously down toward the ground. All the time, Maggie is flirting with both Charlie and Harry. The dance feels lighthearted but with an undercurrent of danger.

Throughout the “Bonnie Jean” ballet, de Mille portrays Harry as the outsider. When he arrives, everyone notices. He seems determined to win the girl, even if she is his second choice. Ultimately he does, but based on the rough way he treats her, we are not sure that he is a good match for Maggie. At the end of the dance, he takes her by both hands and spins her around, then lifts her, still spinning, to his shoulder. He brings her back down into his arms while she is lying out flat, both of them still spinning. Then he drops her to the (p.127) ground and, unable to stop her momentum, she rolls across the floor to the footlights. Harry walks forward, pulls her up by the hand, and they embrace while “Harry looks at Charlie defiantly.”25 This moment is giddy and comical—both Harry and Maggie seem happily dizzy. But there is also a violent undercurrent—Harry does, after all, drop Maggie to the ground, and he seems more interested in competing with Charlie than he does in wooing Maggie.

Shaping the Story of Brigadoon

Photo 6.3 Brigadoon (1947–1948). Courtesy of Photofest.

De Mille staged the final scene of Brigadoon’s first act as the culmination of all the preceding action. Her sense of theatrical timing worked perfectly here, as it had in Oklahoma!. The final scene of Act I begins with Charlie and Jean’s wedding. The townspeople enter in a stately procession and the bride and groom move center-stage to say their vows. Oliver Smith’s set, dominated by a decaying church, created a gothic backdrop that filled the moment with surreal fragility rather than sticky sentiment.

The wedding ceremony is brief and informal, since the minister who prayed for the miracle of Brigadoon is no longer living. We learn that in Brigadoon, for a marriage to become official, “All that is necessary is the promise of love as long as ye both are on earth.”26 Charlie and Jean kiss, and then lead the others in a celebratory dance.

Shaping the Story of Brigadoon

Photo 6.4 Brigadoon (1947–1948). Shown: James Mitchell (front row, center). Courtesy of Photofest.

The tension in the scene ratchets up as several sword dancers enter, led by Harry, and place their crossed swords on the ground. Harry bows to Jean and then begins the traditional movements of the Scottish sword dance. (p.128) The sword dance was once used as preparation for battle and it is still a regular staple of Scottish dance competitions. Dancers move in a circular pattern, pointing their toes between the blades of the crossed swords, gradually accelerating their pace. If one of their feet touches a sword, it signifies impending death. In the music that accompanies the Brigadoon sword dance, the drone of the bagpipes is imitated in the low strings, and a folk-like melody is played by the flutes. The chorus members periodically interject warnings like “Dinna touch the sword!” and they spur on Harry and the other dancers, singing “Spin till ye’re nothin’ but a screamin’ wind!”27

A sword dance might seem out of place to celebrate a marriage ceremony, but everyone on stage behaves as if it were tradition. Still, the swords signify battle, so de Mille used them to create a sense of suspense at this climactic moment of the play. Harry has already been depicted as a loose cannon, and his close proximity to the swords, along with his aggressive posture toward Jean and Charlie, foreshadow the violence that is about to occur.

After the sword dance, the townspeople join together to perform a reel. The dancers hold their hands high above their heads, standing tall and stately, in the signature posture of Scottish dance. Using classical ballet steps, traditional Scottish movements, and pantomime, de Mille brings Act I to a close with a violent fight. The reel begins with Harry center-stage, still holding his swords (p.129) crossed above his head. The dancers begin to swirl around him. He sets down his swords and approaches Jean, holding out his hand and inviting her to dance with him. She reluctantly accepts. The couple performs the pivot turns of the Reel of Tulloch, arms hooked together. Then Harry lifts Jean and kisses her violently. She is so shocked that she sinks to the floor in tears. The townspeople form a semi-circle to watch the action. Charlie remains downstage right, with two men holding him back to prevent him from charging at Harry. Jean runs into his arms. Harry begins to leave, but a man holds him back, presumably so he can answer for his actions. Harry picks up a sword and holds it menacingly, daring the others to approach him. Tommy, the New Yorker who has fallen in love with Jean’s sister Fiona, gets into the fray, throwing a piece of torn tartan toward Harry to distract him so that another man can knock the sword out of his hand. Harry pulls a knife out of his stocking and moves toward Tommy. The two men struggle and Harry drops the knife. Tommy throws him to the ground. The fight lost, Harry slowly picks himself up and declares, “I’m leavin’ Brigadoon. ’Tis the end of all of us. The miracle’s over.”28 Then the curtain comes down on Act I.

De Mille ends Act I of Brigadoon with a feeling of suspense that rivals her conclusion to Act I of Oklahoma! Will Harry destroy Brigadoon? Will Tommy and Fiona get torn apart as the village disappears? Or will the townspeople try to stop Harry? Act II quickly answers these questions. In the opening scene, during a violent chase, Harry falls, hits his head on a rock, and is killed instantly. The townspeople are relieved, and it seems Harry’s death will be glossed over as a tragic but necessary consequence of his actions. At first, his death is even hidden from his own father so that everyone can get on with the wedding supper. The townspeople dance and drink in celebration, remaining ignorant of Harry’s death. Meg Brockie sings “My Mother’s Weddin’ Day,” followed by what de Mille designated as the “Drunk Dance.” The humor of this moment stands in stark contrast to the frightening violence that opened the act. Because Meg Brockie’s number is light and carefree, it seems Harry’s death might be glossed over.

In fact, Harry’s death is not forgotten. Soon the drunken revelry of the wedding celebration comes to an abrupt halt as bagpipes sound a lament. Harry’s father enters carrying his dead son in his arms. The body is shrouded in the Beaton family tartan. The townspeople react with horror as Harry’s body is lowered down onto a long, flat rock at the rear of the stage which serves as a viewing platform. Then Maggie enters, dressed in black, to perform a dance of mourning.

The interruption of the wedding celebration with the entrance of Donald Beaton carrying his son’s body was described in an unpublished draft of the (p.130) Brigadoon script, so it seems Lerner planned to have Harry’s death revealed to the townspeople in this shocking manner. He then planned a funeral scene, with no mention of dance. It was de Mille’s decision to make a dance of mourning for Maggie (Lidija Franklin) the centerpiece of the scene. Franklin must have made an impression at the New Haven premiere. Although she appeared throughout the show as Harry’s love interest, she was listed on the New Haven program only as “The Girl in Blue.”29 Just a few days later when the show opened in Boston, her character was given the name of “Maggie.” The role of Maggie became a permanent addition to Brigadoon, and her name appears both in the vocal score and the published libretto (as Maggie Anderson). De Mille invented her character to express the sense of loss and grief caused by Harry’s death in a deeply personal and intimate way.

Maggie’s funeral dance is accompanied by a traditional Scottish bagpipe melody identified in the vocal score as the “Piobrochead.”30 This probably refers to “piobaireachd,” a Gaelic word used to denote a genre of bagpipe music. Here the piobaireachd style is used for the funeral dirge. The drone of the bagpipe is imitated in the orchestra by the clarinets, bassoons, and strings, while the melody is played by an oboe and muted trumpet. Unlike the other dances for Brigadoon, there is no music in Loewe’s hand for the funeral dance. Trude Rittmann worked with de Mille in the rehearsal studio to adapt the traditional Scottish melody, creating music suitable for Maggie’s movements. She did not quote from song melodies heard earlier in the show or reference any material from the rest of the Brigadoon score. This made the music for the funeral dance stand out in its simplicity, so much so that, according to Robert Lewis, it was “resented by … Fritz Loewe, probably because [it] was an existing, authentic Scottish funeral dirge played on bagpipes that emitted a sound offensive to his Viennese ears.”31 De Mille’s choreographic style for the piece also stands out. While it employs some Scottish elements, it primarily emphasizes modern dance techniques, particularly those created by Martha Graham. De Mille’s choreography is steeped in the universal emotions of pain and grief. She highlights the funeral dance as a key moment in Brigadoon’s plot. Through movement, Maggie shows that she will not allow Harry to die in vain; she forces the townspeople to acknowledge the sacrifice he has made to keep the miracle of Brigadoon alive.

Shaping the Story of Brigadoon

Photo 6.5 Brigadoon (1947–1948). Shown center: Lidjia Franklin. Courtesy of Photofest.

Maggie begins her dance by approaching Harry’s lifeless body, removing her own black shawl, and picking up his torn plaid. She stretches out her arms and shows the plaid accusingly to the crowd that is gathered around her. Then she places the plaid over her head and throws one end over her shoulder, folding her arms in front of her “in grim discipline.”32 As she passes the townspeople in a clockwise circle, each member of the crowd sinks to one (p.131) knee in penance. With the shawl drawn tightly over Maggie’s head, here de Mille recalls the image of Jean on the eve of her wedding, sitting with her head covered in nervous anticipation. Maggie seems imprisoned by the garment representing her grief, the way that Martha Graham appeared in her 1930 piece, Lamentation. She tries to perform the traditional steps of the Seann Triubhas (in which the legs kick out to the side) and the fling, but finds herself unable to continue. She slides face down to the ground, then turns over and lies on her back, with her arms crossed over her breast, like a corpse. She gets up using a contraction from the core of her body (another Graham-influenced movement) and paces the stage marking out a rectangle, the outlines of Harry’s grave. Then she stops, faces front, and beats her thigh with her fist as everyone watches, still kneeling. Once again, she runs in a circle in front of the crowd, and they begin to rise as she passes. She leaps in the air with her head thrown back, demanding their attention.

The dance ends with Maggie weeping, her face buried in her right arm, then running to Harry and throwing herself across his body. Three men pick up Harry and follow Maggie off the stage. Harry Beaton will not be forgotten. It is as if de Mille is inserting her own interpretive argument into the margins of the libretto. She believed that Brigadoon would have a stronger impact if Harry’s death was emphasized, not glossed over or ignored.

(p.132) De Mille, Robert Lewis, and New Methods of Staging a Musical

Before Brigadoon, de Mille had not experienced much camaraderie working with directors on Broadway. She felt fiercely competitive with Rouben Mamoulian while choreographing the dances for Oklahoma! and Carousel, although the two remained friends once the productions were over. Elia Kazan admired her work on One Touch of Venus, but he felt somewhat overshadowed by her and the other collaborators.33 De Mille clashed with Yip Harburg and said he claimed credit for much of the work she had done staging Bloomer Girl. In Robert Lewis, she finally had a true partner. Lewis was chosen to direct Brigadoon in part because he was a member of Crawford’s Group Theatre in the 1930s. The ensemble helped the ideas of Konstantin Stanislavsky take hold in America, especially because of Lee Strasberg’s widespread influence. Strasberg famously encouraged Group Theatre actors to tap into past memories that would help them convey specific emotions in performance. His technique became known as “method” acting, and he continued to promote it when he worked with Crawford at the Actors Studio during the late 1940s and into the ’50s. Crawford, Lewis, Strasberg, and their colleagues wanted theater to be a serious pursuit, not just superficial entertainment. In Lewis’s description, the Group Theatre was made up of “dedicated artists—actors, playwrights, directors, designers—collaborating, through a common technique, to create a unified presentation of plays that would reflect, for their audience, the life of their times.”34 Lewis and de Mille approached Brigadoon with shared enthusiasm and the desire to develop a “common technique” that would bring a sense of unity and meaning to the production. They wanted to make it more than just a love story with some pretty songs and a happy ending. Even though Brigadoon was set in a mythical world, they brought a sense of believability to the show by making the experiences of the characters genuine and palpable.

Shaping the Story of Brigadoon

Photo 6.6 Robert Lewis, director, and Agnes de Mille, choreographer, seated on white bentwood chairs during a rehearsal of Brigadoon (1947). Jerome Robbins Dance Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations.

All of de Mille’s previous collaborators put a great deal of thought into negotiating the relationships between song, dance, and dialogue in their shows. Lewis was similarly reflective. Brigadoon was the first musical he directed, and he took it on as an exciting challenge. Because of his interest in making a theater piece believable, he sought to create smooth transitions from song to dialogue, from everyday movement to dance. And de Mille worked with him as a close partner to achieve this goal. Lewis wrote, “Although the integration of book, songs, and dances in musicals had been established by the time we did Brigadoon, Agnes and I collaborated on techniques to remove the intruding ‘seams’ that come in the transitions from music to dialogue.”35 Lewis developed specific strategies to move into and out of musical numbers: “When going into (p.133) a song, I would think up some justification for lifting the actors’ speech dynamics as the music cue approached, then have them half-talk the early words of the song and glide easily into singing.” De Mille shared Lewis’s interest in seamless transitions. In his memoir, Lewis recalled that she “was a master at starting dances with movements that grew out of walking, or any lifelike activities, and then allowing them to formalize into dance patterns.” Her derivation of dance steps from movements found in everyday life had always been apparent, even in her early recital works. Much of the choreography from One Touch of Venus exemplifies this technique, including Venus’s regal walk and the subway steps that populated “Forty Minutes for Lunch.” She and Lewis had a shared vision for Brigadoon. A scrapbook of rehearsal photographs showing them side by side as they prepared for the opening captures their camaraderie.

(p.134) Lewis remembered, “We became such a close team that, at one moment, when Agnes was on one side of the rehearsal stage suggesting a line-reading to one of the actors, I found myself telling a dancer on the other side to be sure to flex his knees as he descended from his jump.”36

With Lewis, de Mille did not have to stake out her territory. Unlike Mamoulian, he valued the experience she showed when she staged “Down on MacConnachy Square” and other numbers that featured most of the cast. Gemze de Lappe, who has staged Brigadoon a number of times since de Mille’s death, says that in the large production numbers, the chorus “is not just one mass doing the same thing.”37 De Mille made sure that each villager revealed aspects of his or her unique personality in these crowd scenes.38 Her ideas influenced the way the characters moved on stage throughout the majority of the original production. In fact, when it came to the music, it was only the love songs, primarily between Tommy and Fiona (“The Heather on the Hill,” “The Love of My Life,” “Almost Like Being in Love,” “There but for You Go I,” and “From This Day On”), that did not have dance incorporated into them.39 De Mille had staged both song and dance numbers before, and Lewis allowed Brigadoon to benefit from her confidence and depth of experience.

Shaping the Story of Brigadoon

Photo 6.7 James Mitchell (as Harry Beaton) in fight scene from stage production Brigadoon. Photo by Vandamm Studio, © Billy Rose Theatre Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

The chase scene, which depicted Harry Beaton being hunted down by the protectors of Brigadoon, exemplified the most innovative aspects of de Mille and Lewis’s approach to staging. At the beginning of Act II, the curtain rises on a forest near the border of the village. Offstage, the audience hears men singing a kind of chant: “Run an’ get ’im! Get ’im! Run an’ get ’im! Get ’im! Run, ye men, or ye will never see another mornin’.”40 Lerner and Loewe wrote music and lyrics to accompany this scene that is disturbing with its rhymes, repetition, and dissonance. They helped capture the mob mentality that enabled the villagers to go after one of their own. At first, the stage is empty. Then Harry suddenly enters and “looks wildly around.”41 He runs off stage, and the other men appear, pointing in different directions and dividing up to pursue their target. The rest of the chase is illustrated in movement. The transitions between dialogue and song are indeed seamless. When Tommy and Jeff enter to join in the pursuit, Tommy speaks over the music to direct his friend: “You go right and I’ll go left. He can’t be too far from here.” When Jeff exits, he sings “If he comes into sight, hold him fast. Many lives are depending on it. This must not end tonight. They must know that tomorrow is really gonna come!”42 Then we hear the men repeating their chant: “Run an’ get ’im! Get ’im!” Harry runs in and leaps onto the bough of a tree. One of the pursuers follows him, jumps up to join him on the tree branch, and they struggle.

(p.135) Despite the efforts of the men to stop Harry, he manages to leap out of the tree and rush off. When he reenters the stage, he is stumbling, and we sense that the chase has almost ended. He exits again, and then a cry is heard. Two of the pursuers come onstage, dragging Harry’s lifeless body. We never see what caused his death, but the consensus is that he hit his head on a rock. (p.136) A chorus member sums up the tragedy of the situation with a snaking chromatic melody line, performed in sing-song rhyming speech: “Nobody wanted for Harry to be smitten down. All that we wished was to keep ’im from leavin’ the town.”43

The chase scene in Brigadoon is startlingly novel and effective. The music reflects de Mille and Lewis’s interest in seamless transitions and provides evidence that Lerner and Loewe worked together with them to create a musical style appropriate for the violence of the moment. A score for the chase scene does exist in Loewe’s hand, so the work was not entirely delegated to Trude Rittmann or to the orchestrator Ted Royal. It was a significant theatrical moment in the show, so Lerner and Loewe worked as a team with Lewis and de Mille to make it effective. The song was not really song and the dance was not really dance. Actors who also had speaking roles participated in the scene. Fighting was pantomimed to music appropriate for the violent action.

In Brigadoon, de Mille, Lewis, Lerner, and Loewe anticipated the kind of material that would be seen onstage with West Side Story ten years later in 1957. A violent fight was depicted through movement, and a lengthy, pivotal scene flowed without interruption through dialogue, song, and choreography. The chase scene, which provided a breathtaking opening to the second act, could not be labeled as a song, dance, or production number. It was something new. With Crawford and Lewis on board, Group Theatre concepts that would later influence Robbins through the Actors Studio had seeped into the Brigadoon production team. Crawford even had Strasburg give the members of the cast free acting lessons on weekends. Their goal was to take the Broadway book musical to a new level of achievement, with actors, singers, and dancers all unified by a shared intent to tell the story of Brigadoon as seamlessly as possible.

As producer, choreographer, and director, Crawford, Lewis, and de Mille joined together to create a production with depth and suspense rather than a lighthearted, escapist fantasy. Most of the New York critics praised their efforts, and many singled out de Mille for the quality of her choreography. Howard Barnes wrote, “The dancing is probably the key to the compelling quality of the entertainment,” and Robert Garland echoed his enthusiasm: “I wish George Balanchine would come on over from the Century and learn how to create choreography for a Broadway song-and-dance show. … Miss de Mille’s dances [are] not only in the show, but of it.”44 Brooks Atkinson summed up the significance of Brigadoon’s innovations: “For once, the modest label ‘musical play’ has a precise meaning. For it is impossible to say where the music and dancing leave off and the story begins.”45 De Mille had begun to make herself indispensable with her contributions to the stories of (p.137) Oklahoma! and Carousel. With Brigadoon, she wove her material inextricably into the fabric of the production and found success with both critics and audiences.

The Rewards of Team Playing

Cheryl Crawford remembered that Brigadoon “was a dedicated and charming company with … greater [rapport] than any I have ever known. We were a happy family.”46 De Mille had fewer complaints about Lerner, Loewe, and Lewis than she did about Rodgers, Hammerstein, and Mamoulian. Still, working as part of a team did not come easily to her, and Brigadoon was no exception. After years of working on Broadway, de Mille had become secretive and protective of her work. According to James Mitchell, she rehearsed her dancers “behind closed doors. Nobody was allowed in—not directors, producers, composers. She didn’t want them to see anything in progress because they’d have no idea what the finished version would look like.”47 Rehearsal photographs show evidence that she got past this with Lewis and worked by his side, perhaps once she had a chance to devise the bulk of the dances in private. She also gradually overcame any conflicts she had with Lerner and Loewe.

Trude Rittmann worked with de Mille in the rehearsal studio every day, and she remembered that at first Lerner and Loewe believed “she is so much involved in the balletic aspects, she doesn’t have the whole show in mind.”48 But Rittmann, who had very close relationships with both de Mille and Loewe, said the two eventually overcame their differences because of mutual respect and understanding. Rittmann later recalled that one evening, Loewe snuck through de Mille’s guarded doors and “stole into a rehearsal; … he loved every bit. He adores Agnes. … And then he confessed. And since he loved it so, everything was fine.”49 Lerner also left the Brigadoon experience with deep affection for de Mille. Years later, he wrote to her with nostalgia: “No one knows better than I how much you contributed to Fritz’s and my career, and if I never told you before how grateful I am to you, let me do so now. Oh Agnes, dear Aggie—I don’t mind getting older, but I do miss the beginnings.”50 Perhaps de Mille felt less intimidated by Lerner and Loewe than she had by Rodgers and Hammerstein, because of their relative inexperience. Lerner understood that de Mille had helped launch his career, and Loewe remained a dear friend of de Mille’s for many years. The two men asked her to work with them again on Paint Your Wagon in 1951, which she did. There is some evidence that tension emerged between de Mille and Lerner after that show premiered because one critic praised the high quality of her dances, (p.138) in contrast with “Mr. Lerner’s dull book.”51 Lerner and Loewe chose Gene Kelly to choreograph the film version of Brigadoon in 1954, and they used Hanya Holm to choreograph My Fair Lady in 1956. But on the whole, de Mille’s correspondence reveals that her relationships with Lerner and Loewe remained relatively amicable, not nearly as fraught with tension as the ones she had with Rodgers and Hammerstein.

De Mille’s lack of resentment for the Brigadoon production team may have reflected her feeling that she was adequately compensated for her contributions to the show. She received $5,000 for her services on the original production of Brigadoon. This showed a dramatic increase in her stature since the days of Oklahoma!. Her contract for that show revealed that she was paid only $1,500 for her six weeks of work leading up to the opening of the first production.52 Having learned from experience, she negotiated rights to revivals of Brigadoon. Even if she did not direct the dances, she would receive 1 percent of the gross weekly box office receipts earned by any professional company that staged the show in the United States or Canada. She would also be given a percentage of the motion picture rights if those were ever obtained.53 After Brigadoon became such a hit, de Mille negotiated royalties for amateur stock performances as well. She would receive 6 percent of gross box office receipts for any stock production that leased rights from the Brigadoon Company, an entity established to manage all the funds relating to Brigadoon following its Broadway performance. Crawford, Lerner, Loewe, and de Mille all signed the document that recorded de Mille’s rights to future earnings, showing that they uniformly agreed to its terms.54 When she later approached Rodgers to arrange similar compensation for Oklahoma! and Carousel, she used Brigadoon as her model, claiming that the musical had “put Jonathan through Amherst.”55

Why was de Mille able to negotiate more lucrative terms for Brigadoon than she had for Oklahoma! and Carousel? Clearly, experience and reputation added to her bargaining power. When she signed on for Oklahoma!, she was virtually unknown to Broadway. She was in a better position when she choreographed the dances for Carousel, but Rodgers and Hammerstein knew how instrumental they had been in her career, so their power still held sway. By contrast, Lerner, Loewe, and Crawford were depending on de Mille to help ensure their success, since the composer and librettist were newcomers. Crawford deeply respected de Mille’s work and, as a woman operating in the male-dominated world of Broadway, she may have been more inclined to give de Mille her due. Also, she seems to have been a relatively generous producer. A few months into Brigadoon’s run, she raised the salaries for the members of the chorus and provided health insurance to everyone in the company.56 Finally, de Mille herself had acquired more business savvy and felt emboldened (p.139) to make certain demands. Brigadoon represented success for her, both on an artistic and a financial level.

Brigadoon beyond Broadway

The original production of Brigadoon ran for 581 performances, and it has been revived extensively by both amateur and professional companies. In New York, there have been four complete revivals of the musical (1950, 1957, 1963, and 1980), all of which used de Mille’s choreography. In 1962, de Mille took her Brigadoon dances and compiled them into an independent ballet called The Bitter Weird (in old English, the word “wyrd” means “fate”).57 The ballet depicts a young woman and her two rival suitors. She chooses the one she loves, and during a fight at their wedding, the rival suitor stabs the groom in the back and kills him. The dancing is accompanied by music from Brigadoon, arranged for the ballet by Trude Rittmann. Much of the material is similar to the dances that appear in the musical. The women dance on the eve of the wedding as they did in “Come to Me, Bend to Me.” When the bride mourns her murdered husband, she performs a funeral dance that is nearly identical to Maggie’s dance in Brigadoon. In the ballet, the tragic tone of de Mille’s Brigadoon dances dominates the tale, and there is no happy ending.

In 1954, MGM made a film version of Brigadoon featuring Gene Kelly as Tommy Albright and Cyd Charisse as Fiona Campbell. Hugh Laing performed the role of Harry Beaton. De Mille had been close friends with both Laing and Antony Tudor when they were all working with Marie Rambert in London during the 1930s. By 1954, Laing had become an accomplished character dancer, known for his roles in the ballets of Tudor, Massine, and Jerome Robbins. He and de Mille had parted ways while working on the ballet Tally-Ho for Ballet Theatre in 1944.58 Surprisingly, given Laing’s talents, the film features very little dancing for Harry Beaton. Most of the dancing occurs in large production numbers performed by the entire cast, or during pas de deux for Tommy and Fiona. Beaton has a few lines of dialogue, and he dances briefly during the wedding scene. As he attempts to leave Brigadoon, he is pursued by the villagers. He climbs a tree and is accidentally shot by Jeff, who hears the rustling leaves and mistakes Beaton for a bird. There is no funeral dance of mourning. Instead, there is a sense of relief Beaton hasn’t been allowed to leave the town, for now Tommy and Fiona will have the chance to be together.

After the film premiered, New York Times critic Bosley Crowther largely blamed the poor choreography for its failures. He wrote, “The story told in the film … is exactly the same wistful fantasy that was spun out on upon the stage as written by Alan Jay Lerner, who also prepared the script … but the (p.140) dancing and the performance—well we’re afraid that the life and the smoothness of the original have been perceptibly lost.”59 Without de Mille’s dances, Lerner’s story was reduced to sentimental romance, and it lacked the power of the original production. In fact, the film did tell a different story from the one Broadway audiences saw—and it was not convincing.

Just over a month after Brigadoon’s premiere, Lerner wrote an article for the New York Times with the provocative title “The Musical Play Comes of Age.” He defined the “musical play” as a form in which “words, music, and movement blended together in perfect synchronization,” and he went on to describe how he and his collaborators achieved that goal in Brigadoon. He said:

Agnes de Mille … suggested making Harry Beaton (the so-called “heavy”) a dancer, so that each dance in which he appeared would be a part of the story. Bobby Lewis was bent on making the characters ring true, their relationships clear, the story lucid and, along with Cheryl Crawford, the entire production “of a piece” both in style and intent.60

Lerner argued that the seamlessness of the Brigadoon production was revolutionary. He claimed, “In presenting the musical numbers we tried to keep the staging as nearly like dialogue as possible” and “In the dancing productions many ‘big finishes for a hand’ or ‘mammy endings’ were sacrificed and instead the dances are often interrupted by another development in the story.”61 After working on a production in which dance and staging were so central to the overall concept, de Mille seemed ready to take on the mantle of choreographer-director. Not long after Brigadoon’s premiere, she began work on her third and final collaboration with Rodgers and Hammerstein. She would both direct and create the dances for their new musical, Allegro. Unfortunately, the show would become known as one of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s biggest flops, and de Mille was blamed for many of its problems. Allegro had both strengths and weaknesses, but the consensus among the collaborators was that de Mille had been unable to manage the demands of her dual role. Finally, she had been given the opportunity she had been working toward—the chance to officially act as the guiding hand, the choreographer-director of a major musical. The experience turned out to be a painful disappointment.


(1.) Letter from de Mille to Walter Prude, April 3, 1945, de Mille Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Box 3, folder 10.

(2.) See Carol Easton, No Intermissions: The Life of Agnes de Mille (Boston: Little, Brown, 1996), 247.

(3.) See Easton, No Intermissions, 251.

(4.) Hurok managed a wide array of artists including Anna Pavlova, Isadora Duncan, Michel Fokine, Rudolf Nureyev, Marian Anderson, Van Cliburn, and Yo-Yo Ma. For more information on Hurok, see Harlow Robinson, The Last Impresario: The Life, Times, and Legacy of Sol Hurok (New York: Penguin Press, 1995).

(5.) Agnes de Mille, And Promenade Home (Boston: Little, Brown, 1958), 286.

(6.) Letter from de Mille to Oliver Smith, Aaron Copland, and Lynn Riggs, November 22, 1946, de Mille Papers, NYPL, MGZMC-Res. 27, folder 1–5. On Copland’s work for Tragic Ground, see Howard Pollack, Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man (New York: Henry Holt, 1999), 419–421.

(7.) De Mille’s contract for Brigadoon can be found among her papers, NYPL, MGZMD 100, Box 30, folder 563.

(8.) Quoted in Edward Jablonski, Alan Jay Lerner (New York: Henry Holt, 1996), 26.

(9.) Alan Jay Lerner, Brigadoon libretto (London: Faber Music, 2007), 31.

(10.) Robert Lewis, Slings and Arrows: Theater in My Life (New York: Stein and Day, 1984), 168.

(11.) See de Mille’s Brigadoon contract, p. 1.

(12.) A copy of this note can be found in the Barbara Barker Papers, NYPL, Box 17, folder 12.

(13.) Gallagher, during a panel discussion on the original production of Brigadoon. Videotaped at the Bruno Walter Auditorium, February 12, 1997. Available for viewing at NYPL, MGZIA 4-2877.

(14.) Quoted in Stephen Citron, The Wordsmiths: Oscar Hammerstein and Alan Jay Lerner (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 159.

(p.209) (15.) A video featuring footage from the original Brigadoon production shows “Come to Me, Bend to Me” in its entirety, onstage, without sound. Available for viewing at NYPL, MGZHB 4/1090. The dance also appears on a video of Brigadoon’s City Center Revival, filmed in performance, May 1950, NYPL, MGZIC 9-3569.

(16.) Lerner, Brigadoon, libretto, 8.

(17.) Lerner, Brigadoon, libretto, 25.

(18.) James Mitchell, interview with the author, June 19, 2007.

(19.) Letter from de Mille to Lucia Chase, November 13, 1946, De Mille papers, NYPL, MGZMC-Res. 27, folder I-5.

(20.) Mitchell, interview with the author.

(21.) When he was working on a 1996 revival of Brigadoon for the New York City Opera, John McGlinn discovered a draft script of Lerner’s. According to McGlinn, it made no mention of dance. McGlinn described the script during a panel discussion featuring Gemze de Lappe, Robert Lewis, David Brooks (Tommy Albright in the original cast), and Helen Gallagher (chorus member, original cast), February 12, 1997.

(22.) De Mille had already used this technique with the secondary characters she created for her dances in other musicals. See the earlier discussions of Joan McCracken’s performance in Oklahoma! and Sono Osato’s performance in One Touch of Venus.

(23.) “The Dances of Brigadoon,” written out by Vernon Lusby with corrections by de Mille. These notes provide a bar-by-bar description of all the steps for each dance in the show. De Mille papers, NYPL, MGZMC-Res. 27, III-1.

(24.) In Scottish dance, the pas de basque step is performed when the dancer shifts weight from one leg to another with a small leap. The leg without the weight extends out to the side, with the toe pointed.

(25.) The Dances of Brigadoon, written out by Vernon Lusby.

(26.) Lerner and Loewe, Brigadoon libretto, 34.

(27.) See Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, Brigadoon, vocal score (Miami: Warner Brothers Publications, 1967), 118–119.

(28.) Lerner and Loewe, Brigadoon, libretto, 36. The details of the fight scene are described here in stage directions.

(29.) Brigadoon program from the Shubert Theatre, New Haven, February 6–8, 1947. Filed under “Brigadoon Programs,” NYPL, MWEZ n.c. 21, 834.

(30.) Lerner and Loewe, Brigadoon, vocal score, 167.

(31.) Lewis, Slings and Arrows, 168.

(32.) “The Dances of Brigadoon,” written out by Vernon Lusby with corrections by de Mille. The words “in grim discipline” are in de Mille’s hand, a correction added to the notes that Lusby has transcribed.

(33.) See Stephen Hinton’s discussion of Elia Kazan’s feelings about One Touch of Venus in his book, Weill’s Musical Theater: Stages of Reform (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012), 311.

(34.) Lewis, Slings and Arrows, 37.

(35.) Lewis, Slings and Arrows, 170. All of the following quotes from Lewis come from this page of his memoir.

(36.) Lewis, Slings and Arrows, 169–170.

(p.210) (37.) Panel discussion on the original production of Brigadoon. Videotaped at the Bruno Walter Auditorium, February 12, 1997. Available for viewing at NYPL, MGZIA 4-2877.

(38.) De Mille had taken a similar approach in earlier works. For example, she choreographed small comical gestures for the women to perform during the parade of hoopskirts in Bloomer Girl.

(39.) Gene Kelly incorporated movement during some of the songs in the film version of Brigadoon (1954). He did the choreography for the film and de Mille’s dances were omitted.

(40.) Lerner and Loewe, Brigadoon libretto, 37.

(41.) Lerner and Loewe, Brigadoon libretto, 37.

(42.) Lerner and Loewe, Brigadoon vocal score, 142–143.

(43.) Lerner and Loewe, Brigadoon vocal score, 146.

(44.) Howard Barnes, “Drink a Cup to Brigadoon,” New York Herald Tribune, March 14, 1947; Robert Garland, “Brigadoon Opens at Ziegfeld Theatre,” New York Journal American, March 14, 1947.

(45.) Brooks Atkinson, “The Play,” New York Times, March 14, 1947.

(46.) Cheryl Crawford, One Naked Individual: My Fifty Years in the Theater (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1977), 165.

(47.) Easton, No Intermissions, 257.

(48.) Easton, No Intermissions, 259.

(49.) Nancy Reynolds, interview with Trude Rittmann, Oral History Project, Dance Collection, NYPL, MGZMT 3-1187.

(50.) Letter from Lerner to de Mille, June 11, 1979, de Mille Papers, NYPL, MGZMD 37, folder 674.

(51.) Claudia Cassidy, Chicago Tribune, December 17, 1951. Quoted in Easton, No Intermissions, 316.

(52.) A copy of de Mille’s contract with the Theatre Guild for Oklahoma! is filed with her papers, NYPL, MGZMD 100, Box 30, folder 573. After the New York opening of Oklahoma!, de Mille’s contract stipulated that she would receive $250 per week if additional services were required. There were no provisions for a share of future profits made on the show.

(53.) A copy of de Mille’s contract for Brigadoon can be found in her papers, NYPL, MGZMD 100, Box 30, folder 563.

(54.) A copy of this letter can be found in the Cheryl Crawford Papers, Billy Rose Theatre Division, NYPL, Tmss 1973-004, Box 28.

(55.) Letter from de Mille to Rodgers, August 3, 1971. De Mille Papers, NYPL, MGZMD 100, folder 379.

(56.) Crawford, One Naked Individual, 167. Although note that when Crawford produced One Touch of Venus, de Mille claimed that the “stingy management” was not paying her dancers high enough salaries to keep them from leaving the show. See Chapter 3 of this volume.

(57.) A video of “The Bitter Weird” made by the Canadian Broadcasting Company in 1964 can be viewed at the NYPL. It features James Mitchell as the Bridegroom, Marilyn Young as the Maiden, and Richard Rutherford as the rejected suitor. See MGZIC 9-3570.

(58.) Virginia Bosler, who originated the role of Jean in the original Brigadoon production, played the same role in the film, but otherwise there was no attempt to replicate the casting of the Broadway musical.

(p.211) (59.) Bosley Crowther, “The Screen in Review: Brigadoon,” New York Times, September 17, 1954.

(60.) Alan J. Lerner, “The Musical Play Comes of Age,” New York Times, April 20, 1947.

(61.) Lerner, “The Musical Play Comes of Age.”