When Los Angeles-based costume designer Marcy Froehlich went on a three-month search for a kilt maker to design and produce knee-length garments for the Music Circus’ production of “Brigadoon,” she was looking for a person with a high regard for authenticity and creativity.
Interestingly, she found that person in Sacramento.
“I wanted the kilt to be as beautiful as the dancer,” said Froehlich, now in her 10th season with the Music Circus. “If I couldn’t find someone (in Los Angeles), I was going to find somebody in Scotland to make them for me. (But) Sacramento? That’s where the show is being done.
Froehlich tapped internationally renowned kilt maker Josh Brown, founder and owner of Skye Highland Outfitters, a Scottish kilt and accessory store in East Sacramento, to make 14 kilts that will be worn by the male performers of the Lerner and Loewe Broadway musical, which runs Tuesday through Sunday at the Wells Fargo Pavilion.
Directed by Glenn Casale, “Brigadoon” transports audiences to the Scottish hills where two New Yorkers – Tommy Albright and Jeff Douglas – happen upon a quaint and remote village that appears for one day every 100 years. When Albright and Douglas notice the residents are strangely dressed and speak as if from another era, they realize they have time warped to a mystical place with 18th century customs.
Romance takes center stage when Albright falls for Brigadoon resident Fiona MacLaren, but he isn’t sure he can leave his modern existence and commit to a life in the village.
While the musical explores themes of love, faith and the power of miracles, Froehlich believes “Brigadoon” also contains a subtle reference to a dark period in Scottish history.
Froehlich is alluding to the Battle of Culloden, a bloody confrontation with British forces that occurred in 1746 – the same year the fictional and magical Scottish town of Brigadoon became enchanted and thus saved from the evils of the outside world.
But for Brown, who is of Scottish decent on his mother side, “Brigadoon,” a musical he grew up with as a child, is mostly a fun, escapist story that many Scots hold dear.
“Anything that is related to your culture that’s in theater and multimedia, you’re going to enjoy,” said Brown, who also plays bagpipes in the musical. “It’s absolutely thrilling to be providing my cultural skill set to this production as far as clothing and to the music.”
The kilts used in the production, Brown said, convey the time period of the mid-1800s. One of the most traditional patterns for Scottish kilts is tartan, which consists of vertical and horizontal stripes in multiple colors that act as identifiers for a family or a region in Scotland.
Brown said he sourced the kilt material from Lochcarron of Scotland, a manufacturer of tartan and other fabrics. Because kilts don’t carry any pockets, Brown was responsible for making and designing the sporran, a small pouch worn around the waist.
The most challenging part of kilt making, Brown said, is matching the measurements to the performer’s body.
“It really becomes the mechanics of taking those measurements and applying it to the cloth,” he explained. “You have to become extremely precise.”
Brown, 44, learned about kilt making from his mother, a Scottish dancer who passed down her native culture and traditions to him and his brothers when they were raised in Atlanta, Ga.
His path to professional kilt maker was a winding one. In 2007, Brown left his job as a software developer at Apple to spend more time with his newborn daughter. Evaluating his employment options, he decided to capitalized on his knowledge about the Scottish American community.
“I was crawling the walls for about a month,” said Brown. “I wasn’t making any money, so my mother suggested I help her out with her contacts and utilize my knowledge of Scottish history.”
And that’s what he did. Later that year, Brown opened Skye Highland Outfitters. After about a month, he saw “that there was a niche market, and people were placing order after order.”
Since opening his shop, Brown said he has probably made more than 500 kilts.
Nevertheless, this assignment has been a special one, and Brown said that he was looking forward to sharing his cultural heritage and seeing the Music Circus actors sporting his tartan creations.
“ ‘Brigadoon’ is a Scottish romantic love story,” he said. “The Scottish kilt is the identifying garment of the country. You really couldn’t have a run like this without the kilt.”
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