Thursday, 5 March 2009

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers - Darlington Civic Theatre

Seven Brides For Seven Brothers
Book: Lawrence Kasha & David S. Landay
Music: Gene De Paul
Lyrics: Johnny Mercer
New songs: Al Kasha & Joel Hirschhorn
Director: Chris Hocking
Choreography: Chris Hocking
Reviewer: Ian Cain

Seven Brides For Seven Brothers is a thigh-slapping, toe-tapping, glorious musical romp that takes audiences back to Oregon in 1850, and introduces Adam Pontipee and his six rough and ready brothers.

Adam, played by accomplished West End actor Steven Houghton, and his brothers are a family of lumberjacks who live in an unkempt backwoods cabin. Since the death of their beloved mother the men have not had any feminine care and attention, and one day they decide enough is enough. They need someone to clean, cook, sew, mend, fetch and carry for them!

As the eldest, and head of the house, Adam sets off for town in search of a wife. By chance, he meets a pretty young girl named Milly, portrayed by Susan McFadden, who works in the local restaurant. Bowled over by Adam’s masculinity and chivalry in defending her honour from a lecherous drunk, Milly quickly accepts his proposal of marriage and the opportunity of a life with less drudgery.

It is only when she has said ‘I do’ and has been carried across the Pontipee threshold that Milly discovers that Adam has six brothers. Anxious to get wives of their own, but lacking in manners and social etiquette, the brothers are taught how to behave by Milly who is desperate to share her life with only one man – Adam.

Steven Houghton cuts an imposing figure as Adam and is convincing as the chauvinistic woodsman, delivering his musical numbers with a fine and mellow voice. His leading lady, Susan McFadden is a sheer delight with her charming performance and wholesome good looks. She strikes exactly the right balance between sweetness and sassiness.

Strong supporting performances are also given by the actors and actresses playing the six brothers and their potential wives. The guys, in particular, are required to participate in some spectacularly breath-taking, dance routines, choreographed by Chris Hocking.

The musical numbers are an absolute joy, too, and particular highlights include Goin’ Courtin’, Sobbin’ Women and Spring, Spring, Spring.

The costumes, which are designed by Elizabeth Dennis, perfectly compliment each scene and comprise ginghams, tassles, ribbons and denim, as might be expected.

An imaginative rotating set, designed by Charles Camm is used effectively and enhanced by sophisticated lighting.
The orchestra, under the musical direction of Gareth Williams, don’t ever hit a wrong note and really shine when playing the lengthy overture.
All in all, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers is an evening of nostalgia and entertainment that is delivered with an invigorating zest and energy that leaves the audience begging for more.

Seven Brides runs at Darlington Civic Theatre until Sat 7th March 2009
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