Monday, January 22, 2018
Stage

Francis Wilson Playhouse opens season with feel-good musical, 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers'

CLEARWATER — Sit back and enjoy lively music, great comedic timing and "some mighty fine dancin' " as biblically named brothers decides to go a courtin' and a kidnappin'.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, an old-fashioned, feel-good musical, is Francis Wilson Playhouse's 84th season opener.

"In the past we've always opened with a comedy, usually a Neil Simon play, but this time we've chosen something quite different — a huge Broadway production," said Gabrielle Snapp, board member and box office manager.

The musical is based on the 1954 MGM film by the same name starring Jane Powell and Howard Keel.

Though the original musical bombed on Broadway after opening in 1982, revised versions have been very popular in regional and community theaters.

"I call this the fourth edition," said director Jason Fortner. "It wisely reinstates the songs from the film that had been cut from the Broadway version. People who loved the movie are going to love this show."

A youthful, energetic cast of 30 brings many fresh faces to the playhouse.

Alanna Reynolds, 18, is one. She plays the role of Martha, one of the brides. Reynolds said the experience has taught her a few things about the good ole' days.

"I learned back then you couldn't show your ankles," she said. "And we can't give high fives or fist bumps."

There's that.

And then there's Adam Pontipee, the oldest brother. He's a charming sort of fellow who's not into bathing or showing respect for women. His male chauvinism wouldn't fly in the 21st century — "What do I need manners for? I already got me a wife" — but he evolves, thanks to the efforts of a feisty woman named Milly.

The role of Adam is played by Christoff Marse, 50, a seasoned actor who brings Broadway, film and television experience to the local stage.

Kristen Rowell, 43, is Milly, a force of nature gifted with a voice as sweet as an Oregon songbird.

Adam is searching for a wife (make that a cook and laundress) when he meets Milly. He proposes to her a couple of minutes later.

Eager to leave her life as a waitress in a rowdy restaurant, Milly says yes with one condition: "I have to finish my chores first."

But the whirlwind wedding has its downside – namely six scruffy, ill-mannered brothers that Adam failed to mention. Milly plans to civilize the guys so they can get their own wives — and lives. She teaches them manners, how to court and how to dance.

The results are astounding in a fearless seven-minute barn-raising dance. Expect everything from partner dancing to fistfights as the brothers and the suitors vie for the attention of the ladies.

The show features six major dance numbers choreographed by Lisa Stanforth and director Fortner.

"It's not an easy show to choreograph," said Stanforth. "It has twice as many men as women but we were able to fill all the roles with people that were hardworking and happy to be here."

Standouts include Stephanie Porto as bride Dorcas (the actor says she loves the name because she's a dork through and through) and Christian Hall as the endearing Gideon who paves the way to a girl's heart with lines like, "Nice night for a coon hunt."

"The whole cast is so loveable and energetic," said Stanforth, "the audience will fall in love with them."

     
     
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