What is Brigadoon?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Brigadoon is a musical which was written in 1947. The musical centers around an enchanted village in Scotland, and it features an array of traditional Scottish music and dance. Brigadoon has been performed all over the world, from small community theaters to major city stages. The story appeals to many people since it includes colorful Scottish culture and a simple, fun plot.

Brigadoon is set in the Scottish Highlands.
Brigadoon is set in the Scottish Highlands.

According to the story, Brigadoon is a Scottish village which appears every hundred years for one day, as part of a deal with God which protects the village from harm. For the citizens of the village, the century passes as though it is only a single night. The enchantment on the village of Brigadoon will only last as long as no citizen leaves. If the enchantment is broken, the village will disappear forever into the Highland mists.

The musical is actually based on a much older German folktale. However, in 1947, when Brigadoon was written by Alan Jay Lerner, German themes would not have been popular on the British or American stage, due to the recent World War. As a result, Lerner retooled the story, setting it in Scotland so that he could use the distinctive sounds of traditional Scottish music and the lush setting of the Scottish highlands. The music for Brigadoon was written by Frederick Loewe, and the first production was staged on Broadway; several special productions have also since been staged for film and television.

The story behind the name of Brigadoon is a bit complex. Some people believe that the musical was named for Brigid, a Celtic goddess. Others suggest that it is named for Brig o' Doon, a famous Scottish landmark which is referenced in a Robert Burns poem. It may also be a compound of the Celtic words briga, for “town” and dun, for “fortifications,” suggesting a fortified or sheltered town.

The plot of the musical centers around the chaos which unfolds when a pair of traveling Americans stumble upon the village right before a wedding is going to be celebrated. Like other musicals, Brigadoon is meant to draw the audience into a fantasy world which seems larger than life, in which people randomly break into song and dance and engage in other unexpected behaviors. The musical appears to have enduring popularity; new productions are staged every year, and it is a not uncommon choice for school plays.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


Totally agree with the above poster. Brigadoon is incredibly offensive and racist and had it been about virtually any other race, nation or culture, it would have rightly been consigned to the dustbin. The writer of this article is also woefully ignorant of Scotland and our languages and culture!


Brigadoon is an offensive and racist film which is supposed to be set in Scotland!

Post your comments
Forgot password?