Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers - Theatre Royal, Brighton

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: Elizabeth Vile

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is a fun, family musical set in Oregon in the 1850’s. It tells the story of Adam and his six brothers who live in a farm high in the mountains and what happens when Adam brings his new wife, Milly, to live with them.This easy going musical is full of catchy songs and impressive orchestration with ample opportunity for dancing, solo and ensemble singing and some well developed characterisation by all involved.

The comic elements were brought out as much as possible, with elements of caricature apparent with some of the characters, especially those of ‘Frank’ played by Gavin Lee Rees and ‘Preacher’ played by David Alcock. Appearing flowers to represent spring and a townsman running around waving a carpet beater also added to the comedy. I felt these additions were humorous but it did push the production very close to becoming a pantomime, especially mixed with the bright costumes and large chorus numbers. Luckily this slide into panto never happened. The strength of the story and the professionalism of the principals gave the story believability and made the audience care about the characters they were watching.

Steven Houghton played ‘Adam Pontipee’ with the perfect mixture of strength, pride and tenderness. He is a man struggling to survive as the head of the household with a new, headstrong wife, who challenges the beliefs he has strived to live up to. His singing voi
ce was powerful and handled the large amounts of energetic singing easily.
Susan McFadden brought a young naive quality to the part of Milly as she dreamily marries Adam in the hope that he will be the escape to a better life away from the work in the local tavern. Milly’s inner strength and courage is also displayed when she unflinchingly stands up to Adam after the girls from the town were snatched. Her singing voice was beautifully pure and it never lost power during the energetic songs or during dance routines. Unfortunately it did break on occasion but her focus never waivered.

The chorus numbers were highly entertaining and were brimming over with enthusiasm and skill, the ‘Social Dance’ must be mentioned as it was beautifully done and showed off every dancer on stage to their full ability. I must also mention the ensemble singing during ‘Glad that you were born’ and the trio during ‘Love never goes away’ as both sent a shiver down my spine.

The use of projection also worked well throughout, helping the story move along and covering up some of the scene changes, I thought it was particularly effective during the Overture but strangely not so effective during the avalanche scene. Part of me felt that it would have been just as effective having the cast play the scene out towards the audience instead of upstage.

I’d recommend this show to anyone wanting a fun night out with plenty of laughs and a happy ending

Seven Brides runs at the Theatre Royal until Sat 30th April
frontpage hit counter