Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers"

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note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Larry Stark


"Seven Brides for Seven Brothers"

Book by Lawrence Kasha & David Landay
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer, Al Kasha & Joel Hirschhorn
Music by Gene De Paul, Al Kasha & Joel Hirschhorn Based on the MGM Musical, and on
The Story "The Sobbin' Women" by Stephen Vincent Benet

Directed by Scott Schwartz
Musical Direction by Ed Goldschneider
Choreographed by Patti Colombo

Scenic Design by Anna Louizos
Lighting Design by Donald Holder
Costume Design by Jess Goldstein
Sound Design by John A. Stone
Original Wigs & Hair Design by Charles G. LaPonte
Dance Music Arrangements by Sam Davis
Original Sound Efects by Randy Hansen
Casting by Alison Franck
Fight Director J. Allen Suddeth
Stage Manager Alicia D. Reece

The Pontipee Brothers
Adam............Edward Watts
Benjamin........Randy Bobish
Caleb..........Luke Longacre
Daniel...........Karl Warden
Ephraim.........Travis Kelly
Frank...........Eric Sciotto
Gideon....Christian Delcroix

Brides
Milly Bradon....Michelle Dawson
Dorcas....Christina Rae Hedrick
Ruth..............Kate Marilley
Liza...............Denise Payne
Martha.......Margot De La Barre
Sarah..........Stephanie Fittro
Alice.......Sarah Marie Jenkins

Suitors
Jeb.............Cameron Henderson
Nathan.........Nathan Hershberger
Luke................Luke Rawlings
Matt...............Benjie Randall
Joel...............Jason Babinsky
Zeke......Ryan Christopher Chotto
Town Elders
The Preacher....Nick Sullivan
Mr. Hoallum....Andy Patterson
Mrs. Hoallum....Tina Stafford
Mr. Sander........Dan Sharkey
Mrs. Sander.......Becky Barta

ORCHESTRA
Drums, Percussion...Michael Ambroszewski
Violin, Viola............Zoia Bologovsky
Oboe, English Horn.....Andrea Bonsignore
Flute, Clarinet.......Robert Bowlby, Jr.
French Horn................Alyssa Coffey
Flute....................Peggy Friedland
Trumpet........................Ross Hill
Bass...........................Ed Krauss
French Horn...............Robert Marlatt
Violin.....................Gerald Mordis
Keyboard..............Robert L. Rucinski
Conducted by............Ed Goldschneider

I first ran into this story, in about high school, in a collection by Stephen Vincent Benet (along with "The Devil & Daniel Webster"); so when MGM made it a musical it was like finding an old friend growed-up. About ten years after I saw it, I began thinking it would be a good idea to reverse the trend and turn it into a stage production, and about ten years after That, somebody did! It's a big, brash, broad-shouldered story about young America, about people with a gun over the shoulder, an axe in hand, a trap-line, and a dream. The cowboy-myth was about flat, dry deserts turning into farms. But the people here poured over northern passes through the Rockies into echo-y mountains, tricky canyons, floor-to-ceiling tree-trunks and snow --- forests filling with Mountain Men ready to clear-cut and plow in order to build a life, and a country.

On this frontier men have no time for the niceties of life --- like baths, or conversation --- between chores: not with nature and starvation to contend with. For baths, or conversation, or maybe a wife to share chores and start a family, they've got to trek down into town, look over the stock, out-talk or out-fight the townie competition, and haul her back to where a life together can begin. And if stealin' a wife ain't ezzackly condoned by The Good Book, why there's a story in Plutarch's LIVES OF THE ROMANS that might. Only, if'n you're in a kidnappin' mood, might help to snare a Parson in the bag, to keep it legal.

This is a shared production that already played Theatre Under The Stars in Houston and Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey before tearing its proscenium-stageing apart to fit North Shore Music Theatre's big round space. The advantage is that this energetic young cast has bonded thoroughly --- making Patti Colombo's fast, forceful choreography look astonishingly easy. With flips for the men and lifts for the women, and flying-splits and arabesques, they seem to spend half the time flying through the air!

The show is a wry hymn to adolescence, with the inarticulate moans of love-sick livestock breaking from throats on all sides as the boys try to learn enough about "Goin' Courtin" to look at least somewhat civilized. The Brothers Pontipee, and the townies in suits and spats and bowler hats, make much of stealing and re-stealing partners at the big barn-dance, "cutting-in" less and less politely till brawling becomes inevitable. In one neat touch, a brash townie hops on a table to challenge all to arm-wrestle, facing, each time he triumphs, another and decidedly taller Pontipee. And one of the facts of civilization here is the ability to Pretend to fight fair.

People like me who remember the movie will remember Johnny Mercer's full-throated lyrics to "Bless Your Beautiful Hide (whoever you may be!)" "Wonderful, Wonderful Day," "Sobbin' Women" and (my personal favorite) "I'm a Lonesome Polecat". Some may even find bits of the original choreography peeping here and there (That of the axe-handles, for instance!); it is true that among the MGM cast several members of Balanchine's New York City Ballet turned mountain-men, including the young Jacques D'Ambois! And now, live and busting with energy, here's my old friend of a story On Stage At Last!

The task here is to turn Libido into Love, seven times, by final curtain.
And get the chores done too.....

Love,
===Anon.
( a k a larry stark)

"Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" (29 May - 17 June)
NORTH SHORE MUSIC THEATRE
62 Dunham Road, BEVERLY MA
1 (978) 232-7200

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