Review: Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (Bill Kenwright)

 Cheltenham Everyman Theatre

“That was some mighty fancy dancing!”

Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, the famous dance musical, is set in the American state of Oregon in the mid nineteenth century, the American Frontier. The story? One man finds a wife and his six brothers all want their own wives too.

Kasha and Landay’s book tells the story of Adam (in this touring production played by Sam Attwater) and his brothers who all live together in a remote cabin in the mountains. Adam goes into town to trade and ends up getting married. Milly his new wife (played by Helena Blackman), returns with him to his backwards home where she finds that Adam is the eldest of seven brothers all living together as bachelors under the same roof, still fighting like children. Upon finding herself in this highly undesirable situation, Milly decides to teach the brothers manners so that they might find wives of their own… the brothers are inspired by the story of “Sobbin’ Women”, the Roman legend of the Sabine Women, and so set out to kidnap the women that stole their hearts! Now if I say anymore then you will miss out on all the antics and fun that this musical brings…

The direction and choreography work wonderfully with the very fast moving and versatile set pieces that are either flown in, or smaller pieces brought on and off stage by the company in dramatic scene changes; creating the foreground behind which there is a stunning mountain view backdrop.

As a touring production, finding somewhere for the orchestra to play may prove a challenge. In this performance Gene de Paul’s music is conducted beneath the stage by concealed musicians, although their music resounds up through the actors’ feet as they dance. Many humorous moments come from the particular musicians who often appear on stage in scenes and transitions, enhancing the joyful score.

Seven Brides For Seven Brothers is an acclaimed dance musical, and it is the physical movement that this show thrives upon, which makes brave going for the occasional static solo, duet, or in one case a trio, but these numbers bring a nice hiatus from the limitless energy that spills from the ever-present choreography and extraordinary extensive dance sequences.

The trio that I mentioned is sung between Adam, Milly and Gideon, (the latter played by Jack Greaves) towards the end of the first act, ‘Love Never Goes Away’ is quite a tender tune that responded well to the blending of their three voices.

My favourite song from the original 1954 movie was the ‘Lonesome Polecat’, and I was delightfully surprised to see how their rendition was performed in this most recent production, the task of chopping wood creatively became a balletic dance piece!

What I found most inspiring about this production though was the extensive use of physical comedy, and not just in the choreography. Patti Colombo’s direction and even some of Andrew Rothwell’s fight choreography generated a variety of comical moments and interactions in song, dance and scene.

A thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining performance.

This brand new tour of Seven Brides For Seven Brothers has been directed and choreographed by Patti Colombo, continuing its journey to theatres across the country into 2014.

TJM

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