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A CurtainUp London Review
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
The story is of seven backwoodsmen, brothers and bachelors in need of some feminine influence. The eldest Adam Pontipee (Dave Willetts) goes to town in search of a bride and persuades Milly to marry him, almost unseen. Despite the warnings of her girlfriends, Milly finds that Adam has six unkempt brothers and an unruly household. Milly sets about cleaning up the house and sprucing up the boys so that they are more presentable and can go courting, but they find that all the town girls are spoken for. Inspired by Plutarch's story of the Romans' treatment of the Sabine Women, they kidnap the girls who are then snowed up in the mountains by an avalanche and cannot be rescued until Spring. The rescue party finds the girls do not want to return and six weddings (and one renewal of vows) are arranged. Along the way Adam learns that his wife's place is not behind him but beside him.
This production is much smaller than the average Broadway musical and on the Haymarket stage some of the dance numbers are rather squashed, a shame because the choreography is the show's real strength. The two leads, Willetts and Shona Lindsay have magnificent voices and their duets are a real pleasure. The fact that the brothers have been chosen for their dance and vocal skills maybe at the expense of their acting. They are at their most unbelievable in the first scene where terrible wigs and beards make them look like comic derelicts or Monty Python characters playing the Robinson Crusoes. This is the case especially when Milly deprives them of their clothes and they have to dress in blankets. The transition to balletic, well groomed, Cossack shirted suitors fails to suspend disbelief.
The tunes are good , with , "Bless Your Beautiful Hide", "Spring, Spring, Spring" and "Wonderful, Wonderful Day" the best known. The lyrics hark back to an era when men were men and girls were girls. There are so many reprises and orchestration that are only reprises for dancing that the 102 minute film has extended to a show (with an interval) that lasts an hour longer than that. The final sole-slapping dance is reminiscent of Shakespeare's Globe closing dances under Mark Rylance. The sets were designed to be portable and not of the standard we have come to expect in the West End, the avalanche is an unexciting film projection. However, anyone who doesn't expect too slick a production will find some good dancing and pretty music with a very competent orchestra in support, and can have a fun evening.
Mendes at the Donmar
Peter Ackroyd's History of London: The Biography
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co. Click image to buy.
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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