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A CurtainUp New Jersey Review
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Popular film musicals are not noted for their successful transition to the stage, although the reverse has generally been true. Neither Gigi nor the adored Singin' in the Rain could recapture the same glow and magic in their second incarnation. So it was not surprising that Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), one of the most lauded and memorable films from the golden age of film musicals, should share a similar fate when it opened (and quickly closed) as a Broadway show in 1982. The show, which has popped up in regional and community theaters over the years, went through some re-shaping and tinkering for the production at the Goodspeed Opera House in 2005. The good news is that the ebullient and melodic Gene de Paul (music)/Johnny Mercer (lyrics) musical (with additional songs written for the stage production by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn) does what it intends to do: Keep a smile on your face as your palms are kept busy applauding the dancing.
Director Scott Schwartz has done everything but stand on his own hands to make the Northwest frontier setting come alive with the robust vitality. This delightfully boisterous, rollicking adaptation of Stephen Vincent Benet's Sobbin' Women is a humorous tale of how seven love-starved backwoodsmen are eventually tamed by the women they have adducted. As in the film, it is the vigorous dancing by the high-spirited pugnacious brothers, augmented by their enthusiastic brides that gives the show its breathe (or is it gale?) of fresh air. That the rest of the rather old fashioned show, particularly the book, may seem conceptually stale is a point joyously offset by the disarming performances from the two leads and a very large supporting cast.
Choreographer Patti Columbo, who created the dances for the Goodspeed Opera House production, keeps the machos and the maidens almost continuously airborne. There is scarcely a whoop-up, hoe-down, ballet or social dance that doesn't end in a rib-tickling brawl. But there is plenty of romancin' too, as Michelle Dawson, as the feisty but charming Milly the No. 1 bride teaches Edward Watts, as the virile but rough-around-the-edges Adam the No. 1 brother some bedside manners.
All of the seven brothers —, as played by Randy Bobish, Luke Longacre, Karl Warden, Travis Kelley, Eric Sciotto and Christian Delcroix— make an impression with their comically individualized personalities, but it is their energy and those of the rival town suitors of the brides that keep the energy high especially in the thrilling and acrobatic "The Challenge Dance." One of the cleverest and funniest moments occurs just as the brothers arrive at the town social to woo the maidens ("Goin' Courtin'"). They are suddenly all comely, clean shaven and neatly dressed. Up to this point the brothers not only look like they haven't groomed or bathed in a year but behave as if they are mentally challenged. Talk about instant makeover. The audience responded with applause to their almost split second transformation.
Dawson and Watts are perfect in their roles and compliment each other well. They sing beautifully together, most notably the ballad "Love Never Goes Away." The melodious, toe-tapping score, including "Bless Your Beautiful Hide", "Wonderful, Wonderful Day", and "Glad That You Were Born,quot;, is gingerly played by the house orchestra under the musical direction of Tom Helm. Designer Jess Goldstein's puts the cast in some colorful 19th century western garb. Anna Louizos's awesome scenic designs, especially the dense green forest of tall trees that part to reveal various locations, including the cabin in the woods, and the town square are awesome, as eye-catching as all "those beautiful hides." An avalanche opens Act II, but it is the bare-chested male dancers in one scene that get the bigger oohs and ahs from the audience. This is a terrific show for the whole family to enjoy, so don't put it off.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide