Note: Entire Contents Copyright 2016 by Sheila Barth
That’s what you git when you amble over to Ogunquit Playhouse, sit a spell and see two-act musical “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”. The production, set in the wild and woolly 1850’s, untamed Oregon frontier, is pure joy.
There’s a big reason for it, too. Many of the cast, the director, and supporting staff hail from Broadway. This large-scale, highly professional production may take place in Maine, but true to Ogunquit Playhouse’s constant strive for excellence in maintaining its 84-season success, this musical play has all the trappings of a Broadway show here, in our front yard, on Maine’s Route 1.
Deftly directed by Broadway veteran BT McNicholl, (who has directed several award-winning shows at Ogunquit), Broadway stars Nathaniel Hackmann in the lead role of oldest brother, Adam Pontipee, and Analisa Leaming portraying lead female, Milly, have great chemistry together, as do all the Pontipee brothers: Kevin Munhall (Benjamin); Colin Bradbury, (Caleb); Brian Martin, (Daniel); Abe Hegewald (Ephraim); Jeff Smith, (Frank, who hates his real name, Frankincense); and Justin Schuman (Gideon).
Hackmann unleashes his gorgeous voice in the opening number and in oft-reprised solo, “Bless Your Beautiful Hide”. Together, Hackmann and Leaming blend romantically and harmoniously in “Love Never Goes Away,” and the second act “Wonderful Day” reprise.
The girls are wonderfully rambunctious, too. Kelly Berman is Alice; Becky Grace Kalman, Sarah; Shelby Putlak, Liza; Maria Cristina Slye, Dorcas; Chloe Tiso, Martha; and Lizz Picini, Ruth. The rest of the 24-strong cast happily add lots of fun and excitement to the play’s rhythmic ruckus.
Seeing this cast perform together ideally is especially amazing, given they only had 11 days to rehearse all intricate ensemble numbers, from hootenany and hoedown to down-and-out brawl.
Based on the MGM 1954 award-winning film (it won the Oscar for best musical score), the movie boasted an iconic cast, starring Howard Keel and Jane Powell, actor-dancer Russ Tamblyn and actress Julie Newmar.
The movie and stage production are loosely based on Stephen Vincent Benet’s story, “Sobbing Women,” a reference to the Roman capture-kidnapping of the Sabine women, which Adam Pontipee and his brothers recreate after their polite a’courtin’ goes astray, ending up with brawling and bawling. “It’s also the title of one of the play’s most popular songs.
Besides all of Broadway choreographer Parker Esse’s high-kickin,’ twirling, fantastic choreography, the show gits rowdy during the rambunctious challenge dance, when the seven backwoods brothers from the mountains go a-courtin’ for brides, rival the cultured urban gents,and end up not-so-cultured like their new sister-in-law Milly taught them to behave.
Broadway scenic designer Anna Louizos‘ lavish sets, from dense forests, to snow-capped mountains and an avalanche, the brothers‘ log cabin and barn, along with the town facades and dance hall, are eye-popping. So are award-winning designer Jose’ Rivera’s authentic-looking costumes.
The orchestra, led by Director Jeffrey Campos, makes every song a winner.
So, c’mon, git away from the TV and watching football games fer a few hours and head north. You’ll have a rollicking, fun time with this hoot-and-holler, happy-ending musical.