The Pittsburgh CLO finishes up its locally produced shows for the season with an enjoyable production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. With solid performances by favorites George Dvorsky and Jacquelyn Piro Donovan, an old-fashioned "independent woman, stubborn man" love story, and lots and lots of dancing, audiences should leave the theatre feeling good - about the show and about the dedicated and creative organization that brings a slate of musicals to life each summer in Pittsburgh.
First a 1954 musical film starring Howard Keel and Jane Powell, Seven Brides is big on dance. Fired up by the talents of the film's choreographer, Michael Kidd, the stage version continues the use of very athletic dance numbers for the men and lots of lifts and air work in the couples dances. In this production, choreographer Sha Newman provides amazing opportunities for the men to show off their abilities, including balletic and gymnastic moves. Songs by Johnny Mercer and Gene de Paul from the film plus new songs by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn are lovely, but the lengthy dance sequences are what sets this show off from the ordinary fifties musical comedy.
In a standard plot, made different only by the rugged 19th century Oregon wilderness setting, Adam Pontipee (George Dvorsky) and his six brothers live alone working the family farm in the wild Northwest. In need of assistance with the household chores, Adam is encouraged by his brothers to find a wife, which he does on the next trip to town. When his new bride Milly (Jacquelyn Piro Donovan) arrives at the family cabin and realizes what her responsibilities will be, she begins the project of marrying off the brothers. With lessons in manners, new clothes, shaves and a haircuts, the young men quickly transform into something resembling gentlemen. The newlyweds and family go to a social in town where the brothers greatly impress the available young women - and greatly annoy the local young men. A fight breaks out and the Pontipees are sent scurrying back to their cabin in the woods where they moon and daydream over the girls they hoped to court. Showing their lack of polish, the brothers travel to town and kidnap the young women, returning to the farm after making the only road in impassable until the spring thaw. It's easy to see where this is going, but that doesn't really matter as we're treated to some funny scenes, rousing music, and great dancing as the plot's resolution is reached in due time.
Dvorsky and Piro Donovan proved their onstage chemistry to Pittsburgh audiences in the excellent 2003 CLO production of She Loves Me. It's no different here, as they work together with a natural ease. Each has a strong, attractive voice and a considerable comedic flair. The young actors who portray the six brothers (Cameron Henderson, Anderson Davis, Colin Bradbury, Kyle Brown, Whit Baldwin, and Neil Haskell) are very good dancers, and they handle the limited acting requirements handily. The actors playing the potential brides and the "local" suitors have little material to distinguish themselves individually, but all participate with energy and talent in the group dance numbers. Other supporting players provide color and humor as well.
Packaged neatly with sets designed by XuZheng and ample orchestral support by Craig Barna and the CLO orchestra, this true ensemble production is a light and fun evening.
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers continues through July 23 at the Benedum Center. Visit www.pittsburghclo.org/ for ticket and performance information.
Cast: Milly: Jacquelyn Piro Donovan. Adam Pontipee: George Dvorsky. The Pontipee Brothers: Cameron Henderson, Anderson Davis, Colin Bradbury, Kyle Brown, White Baldwin, Neil Haskell. The Brides: Jessica Hershberg, Steffanie Garrard, Alessa Neeck, Anne Horak, Melissa Thomas, Kathryn Lin Terza. The Suitors: Brandon Bieber, Scott P. Sambuco, Zachary Berger, R.J. Marshall, Josh Rouah, Justin Keyes. Preacher: Paul Palmer. Mr. Bixby: Ben Hughes. Mr. Perkins: Jeff Howell. Dorcas' Sister: Camaria Lehman.Townspeople: Christine Biearman, Joyce Biearman, Kathleen Samery, Sydney Samery, Samantha Weiss, Sue Weiss.
The CLO season continues with a touring production of Bombay Dreams (August 1-6) and Monty Python's Spamalot (September 12 - October 1).