Without doubt Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is a thoroughly delightful little musicial and the version I saw at the Muny in St. Louis on August 5th left no doubts about it. The rich, crystal clear voices of its leads, James Clow and Judy McLane, singing out across the night, made listening both enjoyable and easy. The dancing of the brothers, girls and town boys was energetic and precise, gathering up the audience in its wake and causing a lot of "in time" clapping.
The Muny, for those that don't know it, is St. Louis' outdoor theater. It is the oldest and largest outdoor theater in the United States. It seats 12,000 according to the Playbill history page. That's a lot a folks! Especiall when I think of my Memphis theater, the Orpheum, of the Fox in St. Louis which hold between 3,000 and 4,000. Any show played in front of such a large audience, I now am assuming, has to be staged a bit different than those with a small venue. For the back of the audience to see the action, the movements of the actors must be bold and exaggerated, and a lot of smaller actions, kept to a minimum, so they don't clutter the most important gestures and actions. Before I realized this, I was surprised and momentarily worried that this cast just hadn't jellied. I asked myself where was the acting? But as the show moved forward weaving its spell of entertainment. I realized that it was my perceptions that had been hindered by my stereotyped expectations. Once I broke down that stereotype and really sat back and watched the show, I had not disappointments at all and fell completely under its spell.
As to James Clow's portrayal of the eldest brother Adam, it came as a pleasant surprise. As already mentioned his singing was super, but since I had always seen a big, burly Adam cast in my other experiences with the show, I was not quite sure if tall, lean James could make me believe that he was the eldest borther of the rough tribe and a mountain man to boot. I will admit that I had a big problem with the buckskins James wore in the opening scenes. They reminded me more of a cheap Halloween costume then a real set of buckskins, and their fit made him look taller and leaner than his is. But even the yellow buckskins couldn't stop me from falling head over heels right along with Milly when Adam squeezed a two-year courtship into a five-minute speech. And by the time Adam gave his brothers the best advice he could with the story of the "Sobbin' Women," I was into the play hook, line, and sinker, with James as the only Adam I could picture in my mind. I couldn't have enjoyed myself more, so I'll be hoping that James clow plays another show that hits my area of the country really soon.
There needs to be a few words of praise for Judy McLane who played Milly, she deserves plenty of applause and the Best I can do her is to say to you, that if you have the chance to catch her in a show, by all means do so. I haven't seen her before, but I hope I get the chance to see her again, too.
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