As Burning Coal Theatre Company blazes ahead into its 16th season, they open with Alan J. Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s famous musical Brigadoon, which gave musical theatre the well-known standard “Almost Like Being in Love.” Burning Coal continues their reputation for strong character development, innovative designs, and beautiful aesthetic in their small-but-mighty space. Nowadays, it seems that the only way for large productions the likes of Lerner and Loewe’s and Rogers and Hammerstein II’s to reach the general public is for local companies to scale them down and fit them in a minimalist space. In this respect, artistic director Jerome Davis made a wise choice. While many cling to the romantic sentiment in examining Brigadoon’s message that love conquers all, Davis chose to examine more closely those obstacles that love must conquer; in Brigadoon – selfishness and greed.

E.D. Intemann captured these motifs with his intricate paint details, crafted by scenic painter Molly Eness, and a web of floor to ceiling wires that entrapped the stage. Intemann, not only responsible for scenic design, but lighting as well, was joined in the ranks of ambitious production team members by music director Julie Oliver. In addition to conducting and playing multiple instruments in the live orchestra, Oliver stepped out of the pit to portray the tottering, but wise, schoolteacher of Brigadoon, Mrs. Lundie. Oliver’s Scottish brogue presented as the closest to accurate amongst the cast.

As with any show written in dialect, although Scottish proves one of the most difficult, a director must make the decision: forego the brogue and hope the audience forgives you, or attempt the brogue and hope the audience forgives you. For better or worse Burning Coal took on the challenge, with the final product an approximation of authenticity, and unless any native speakers attended, the audience did not seem to mind.

Overall strength of character development proved the overall strength of the company, with specific power emerging from the women. Natalie Reder shone vocally and dramatically as the bright and even Fiona, foiled perfectly by the robust and promiscuous Meg (Erin Tito). Tito exercised an awareness of space with her busty belt, which certainly could have blown the roof off, and Reder won the hearts of all with her beautiful, clear soprano. James Anderson and Andrew Bosworth personified the young, ambitious American men of the fifties, excelling especially in comic interactions with the Scottish townsmen, led by robust town elder Andrew MacLaren (George Jack) and lively, endearing Charlie Dalrymple (Jeff Aguiar).

Brigadoon offers Raleigh theatre-goers a refreshing reminiscence on golden age musical theatre. Karen Morgan Williams’ costume design (although less than authentic) offers a uniform style and clean color palette, while E.D. Intemann’s scenic design is lovely and dynamic, though perhaps overt in reflecting themes of the show. The cast’s ensemble gives a strong performance, despite minor shortcomings in Scottish accents and some ambiguous miming. Burning Coal allows the chance to see theatre not often done locally on the small scale. Audiences should seize this opportunity to enjoy to the work of some of musical theatre’s finest composers.

Brigadoon continues through September 23, 2012. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.