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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers Features Dynamic Dancing

Also see Richard's reviews of Slava's Snowshow and Hijra

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
(center) Hilary McQuaide and David Teng with Company Members
While working at Warner Brothers in 1953, we heard that MGM was filming a different kind of musical that would be more of a programmer for Howard Keel, Jane Powell and upcoming Russ Tamblyn. Michael Kidd signed on to choreograph a different kind of ballet that demanded rough, masculine dancing on the order of Agnes DeMille's work on Oklahoma!.   I attended one of the previews outside of Hollywood and I could see that this would be a mega-hit for the studio and would revolutionize the world of dance.   The studio advertised it as "all singin', all dancin', all fighting, all lovin' musical" and it became one of the highest grossing film musicals of the era.  

Kaslan Productions decided in 1981 to convert the manly film musical to the stage with the popular Debby Boone in the Jane Powell role. David-James Carroll was brought in to play the Howard Keel part. They added new songs, from the pens of Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn. to complement the original score by Gene De Paul and Johnny Mercer.   The book by Lawrence Kasha and David Landay followed closely the MGM film.   Kaslan Productions decided on a long pre-Broadway road trip and the show played at the Orpheum Theatre in 1982.  As with most Hollywood musicals transferring to a live stage, it was just not the same dynamic musical. The dancing was spectacular but the book was weak. Seven Brides finally started previews June 25, 1982 at the Alvin Theatre with an official opening on July 8. The New York critics gave it scathing reviews and it closed after five performances.  

Seven Brides  was resurrected for regional theatre and it appeared at the San Jose Civic Light Opera thirteen years ago. Music Theatre International recently took over the booking of the musical and it has become an audience-friendly, rousing, old-fashioned musical that has gained popularity in these troubled times. MTI has the musical playing this year in various cities including Akron, Ohio; Raleigh, North Carolina; Pittsburgh; St. Louis; and even towns like Fillmore, Utah.  

Broadway by the Bay recently presented the rootin' tootin' musical with dazzling dancing with a company of forty.  Choreography by Berle Davis was positively brilliant and worth the price of admission. The dancing by the six brothers and their six perceptive brides was stunning.  The singing was just as good in the choral work of the rough brothers and their demure intended brides.  

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is based on the story by Greek historian Mestrius Plutarchus and was written in 75 AD.   It tells the stories of the abduction of the Sabine women by Roman soldiers.  American Stephen Vincent Benet updated the tale in 1928 and titled it The Sobbin Women.  The setting is now 19th century Oregon and the Roman soldiers have become naļve backwoodsmen, the Pontipee Brothers, and the show tells how they came to marry their wives.  

  The original songs such as "Bless Your Beautiful Hide," "Goin' Courtin," and "Sobbin' Women" are delightful.  The song "Wonderful, Wonderful Day" is charming when sung by Carrie Madson who plays the Jane Powell role. The voices of the brides who accompanied her are lovely.   

Carrie Madson who played Evelyn Nesbit in Broadway By the Bay's Ragtime is a delight as Millie.  She has a bell clear voice.  David Miailovich (played Magaldi in Broadway By the Bay's Evita and Linville in Damn Yankee), who plays the older brother Adam, seems to have problems with some of the notes, especially in the second act. However, he has great vocal chops in "Bless Your Beautiful Hide." Justin Weatherby, who plays the youngest brother Gideon, is personable in his performance. He plays the role just as Russ Tamblyn did in the MGM film.  Justin, who has had training with the Joffrey Academy and Broadway Dance Center, is buoyant in his dance movements and has a mellifluous voice in "Love Never Goes Away" and "A Woman Ought to Know Her Place."  

The other five brothers played by Stephen Perez, Kevin Stanford, Larry Quinto, Matthew Ferretti and Paul Ziller are flawless in their powerful dancing. They are as good as any Broadway chorus I have seen over the years.  The young brides played by Kendall Sinclair, Liz Blair, Hilary McQuaide, Erin Cole, Angela Fuller and Dominique Bonino are marvelous companions in dance sequences with the brothers.  The town suitors played by John Blackwell, David Mugglebee, David Teng, Richard Sherwin, Daniel DeLuca and Sheraj Ragoobeer are vigorous dancers. 

Berle Davis's choreography is full of breathtaking leaps, rambunctious energy and perfect spirited dance moves.  "Social Dance" in the first act is a fabulous scene with the entire cast doing exciting moves. The book might appear weak but the musical is bubbling with fun.  

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers played at the San Mateo Performing Arts Center, 600 N. Delaware, San Mateo through April 23rd.  Their next production will be Fiddler on the Roof opening on July 14 and running through July 30th. For tickets please call 650-579-5565 or visit www.broadwaybythebay.org


Photo: Nancy Fitzgerald  


Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema



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