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A CurtainUp London London Review
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Love is like the measles. You only get it once, and the older you are, the harder you take it.
---- Adam
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Some of the company in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
(Photo: Robert Workman)
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is one of the favoured films of a generation with its groundbreaking choreography and memorable tunes. It comes into the West End after a successful tour out of town starring Dave Willetts, one of the earliest Jean Val Jeans in Les Miserables and the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera. Willets appears as Adam Pontipee, the role created in the film by the great Howard Keel, who in Oklahoma! brought the first American musical to London after the war. The play version of the movie, with some additional songs, was first staged in America in the 1970s, opening on Broadway in 1982.

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.

Composer Gene de Paul
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Book by Lawrence Kasha and David S Landay
New Songs by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn
Directed by Maurice Lane

Starring: Dave Willetts and Shona Lindsay
With: Jay Webb, David Ball, Owen Woodgate, Jonathan Stewart, Sonny Lee Hymans, Stuart Marshall, Claire Louise Connolly, Natalie Langston, Jessica Punch, Nikki Stokes, Lucy Johnson, Grace Harrington, Sean Hackett, Anthony Kirwan, Adam Salter, Ian Goss, Ben Harris, Ewan Jones, Richard Colson, Andrew Rothwell, Claire Platt, Mostyn Lawrence, Victoria Gavin, Laura Daboo/Lucy Bond, Darren de Biasi, Kim Harvey, James Farrar
Choreographer: Adrian Allsopp
Set Designer: Charles Camm
Costume Design: Natalie Cole
Lighting Designer: David Howe
Sound Designer: Glen Beckley
Music Supervisor: Gareth Williams
Running time: Two hours fifty minutes with one interval
Box Office: 0870 400 0858
Booking to 25th November 2006
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 16th August June 2006 at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London SW1 (Tube: Piccadilly Circus)
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers Musical Numbers
Act One
  • "Overture
  • "Bless Your Beautiful Hide"/Adam
  • "Wonderful, Wonderful Day"/Milly and the Brides
  • "One Man"/Milly
  • "Goin' Courtin'"/Milly and the Brothers
  • "Social Dance"/The Company
  • "Love Never Goes Away"/Adam, Milly and Gideon
  • "Sobbin' Women"/Che, Adam and the Brothers
Act Two
  • "The Townsfolk's Lament"/Suitors and Townspeople
  • "Where Were You"/Adam
  • "We Gotta Make It Through the Winter"/The Brothers
  • "We Gotta Make It Through the Winter"/Milly and the Brides
  • "(Reprise) with Lonesome Polecat"/The Brothers
  • "Spring, Spring, Spring"/Brides and Brothers
  • "A Woman Ought to Know Her Place"/Adam and Gideon
  • "Glad That You Were Born"/Milly, Brides and Brothers
  • " Love Never Goes Away (Reprise)"/Milly and Adam
  • " Wonderful, Wonderful Day (Reprise)"/Milly and Adam
  • "Wedding Dance"/The Company
  • "Finale and Bows"/The Company

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