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Arts & Entertainment

Theater Review: Seven Brides For Seven Brothers

From Issue: Volume XXI - Number 8
4/19/2013


By Ben Miles

By Ben Miles

Taken from the 1954 Stanley Donen film of the same title, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” bombed in its 1982 Broadway debut. Soon afterward, however, a more successful run of it was had in London, and several revised versions of the show have since found appreciative audiences in both regional and amateur theaters in the U.S. and in England.

Now, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” strongly directed by Glenn Casale, is in a pulsating production, courtesy of McCoy/Rigby Entertainment, at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, through May 5.

It is 1850s Oregon, and Adam (a spontaneously endearing Kevin Early) is in need of a wife; so, he goes to town in search of matrimony. The household from which he hails is comprised of only himself and his half-dozen uncouth brothers – Benjamin (Karl Warden), Caleb (Carson Twitchell), Daniel (Brian Steven Shaw), Ephraim (Eric Stretch), Frank ((Keith A. Bearden), and Gideon (Neil Starkenberg) . In town, Adam encounters Milly (a marvelous Beth Malone), a waitress at the local hash factory. They wed posthaste and journey back to Adam’s roughhoused lifestyle in a log cabin in the remote mountains of the Pacific Northwest.

Milly meets the siblings, and in an effort to change their brutish ways, she teaches them to dance and then takes the man clan to a barn-raising event. Here the brothers meet a like number of la-dies, where they all begin a courtship. Complications ensue when each of the women turns out to have a jealous suitor, with whom each brother must compete for female affections. After he reads to his brothers “The Rape of the Sabine Woman,” Adam is inspired, and hatches a plan to kidnap the ladies and trek back to their mountain hideaway.

This is where “Seven Brides” takes a wrong turn. It’s not just the inappropriateness of the kidnapping that’s objectionable, it’s that the whole scenario is played under the guise of a lighthearted musical comedy. But the implications remain cruel and filled with misogyny. Still, if one can get past the ugly inferences and instead tune into the music and stagecraft on display, there are worthwhile theatrical moments to be experienced in this show.

Under Patti Colombo’s invigorating choreography, and with Dennis Castellano’s masterful musical direction of an eleven-member orchestra, the dozen-plus song and dance numbers come to life over two acts, and in about two and-a-half hours (lyrics by Johnny Mercer, music by Gene DePaul and book by Lawrence Kasha and David Landay –with new songs added [in 2005] by Joel Hirschhorn and Al Kasha).

Two musical routines – “Where Were You?” and “I Married Seven Brothers” – were added to the script three decades after the show premiered in New York, with the latter title providing a good expositional showcase for Milly. But it is in the renditions of “We Gotta Make Through the Winter” and the “Wedding Dance/ Finale” where this staging hits its high notes while underscor-ing the talents of the performance ensemble.

The film, which inspired “Seven Brides,” was itself inspired by a short story called “The Sobbin’ Women”; that, in turn, was based on the ancient Roman legend, “The Rape of the Sabine Women.” Perhaps this explains the casual brutishness shown here by males to females. It, nevertheless, does not excuse it.

“Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” continues at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts. It’s located at 14900 La Mirada Boulevard, La Mirada. Evening performances are at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays and at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Matinees are at 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. For reservations, call (562) 944-9801. For online ticketing and further infor-mation, visit www.lamiradatheatre.com

ben@longbeachcomber.com