Thursday, April 26, 2018
Stage

Review: Fast-paced ‘Seven Brides’ is pure entertainment at Show Palace

Try not to blink if you go see Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, playing through Nov. 12 at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre in Hudson. If you close your eyes even for a second, you may miss something terrific in this fast-paced, lively and delightfully entertaining show.

Based on the 1954 movie musical, the stage version has not only all of the movie’s songs, but also a half dozen more penned especially for live theater, most notably the gleefully peevish A Woman Ought to Know Her Place, sung by bridegroom Adam Pontipee when his new bride balks at being a housemaid for him and his six slovenly backwoods brothers.

Set in 1850s Oregon, Brides/Brothers is the tale of seven lonely brothers who need someone to take care of them. Oldest brother Adam (tall, lanky Cody Garcia) volunteers to go to town to get a bride. He meets and quickly marries the beautiful cook at the local restaurant, the slender, fragile-looking Milly (Sunny Gay), who turns out to be tough as nails. Her dream has been to leave the diner and cook for only one man, so she’s shocked when she finds another six men to take care of after she and Adam arrive at his mountain house.

Milly vows, "I’m not gonna quit," when she realizes I Married Seven Brothers. Instead, she decides to gussy them up, teach them how to court and dance, then take them to a local barn-raising to find their own brides to share the work. The problem is that there are 10 men for every woman in these parts, and the six prospective brides already have many suitors.

This brings on what is, arguably, the highlight of the show, The Challenge Dance, where the six unmarried brothers (Craig Frank, Jimmy Wencel, Marty Craft, Richard Philip, Alex Fullerton and Nathan Richardson) take on the six suitors (Christian Fary, Bo Price, Caleb Brening, Barry Kramer, Tim Osgood and Patrick Higgins) in a super high-energy dance-off filled with heart-stopping gymnastics, tumbles, cartwheels, ax twirling, and powerful jumps and kicks. (Watch for Ridgewood High freshman Patrick Higgins, as the youngest suitor, Jeb, whose robust moves shine through the talent-filled stage.)

The dance ends in a fight, and the Pontipee brothers are banned from town, even though they didn’t start it. Back home, and lovesick, the boys take Adam’s advice to do what the Romans did in ancient times, when they kidnapped the Sabine Women (Sobbin’ Women), a story Adam read in one of Milly’s books. The brothers kidnap the women (Jaclyn Juola, Brianna Trier, Diane La Von, Colleen Campbell, Whitney Grace and Elizabeth Melleavey) and hustle back toward their mountain cabin, then start an avalanche that blocks passage to their rifle-toting pursuers. The only problem is that they forgot to bring along the Preacher (Pete Clapsis), so Milly bans them to the barn until spring, to keep them away from the women.

Some may find the kidnapping of unwilling women a tad disconcerting in this era of heightened awareness of unwanted male sexual aggression. But the brothers do it with such innocent relish, and Milly imposes such strict propriety once they’re all back home — and the brothers politely and willingly accept the strictures — it comes off as romantic, rather than indecent.

Indeed, it works out in the end, and along the way showcases the talents of the 23-member cast, in song (We Gotta Make it Through the Winter), in the balletic Spring Dance and in Milly’s tender Glad That You Were Born.

Director/choreographer Jill Godfrey keeps the show moving at a fast clip, thanks to Jeff Webber’s set design, which allows for quick changes and little down time between scenes. Michael Sessa’s lights and sound are spot on, as are spot operators Paula Davie and Tamra Wozniak. Godfrey’s dance moves highlight the talents of her cast members, taking advantage of each performer’s capabilities. Music director Kevin M. Dorey brings out the best in Gay’s clear-as-a-mountain-stream soprano, as well as Garcia’s mellow baritone.

Brides/Brothers is a good story, the songs hummable, the Show Palace production values pleasing. It packs a lot into the less than two hours of actual performance time.

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