- St. Louis
- August 2, 2000
- Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
By Judith Newmark
- Dance musicals - shows defined by choreography
more than plot or even songs - are hot tickets on Broadway now and have been for several
seasons. This week The Muny joins the trend with "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,"
exuberantly choreographed by Pepper Chase.
- The director, Thommie Walsh, understands that the
impact of this musical lies in its big dance numbers; he moves things along briskly to
accommodate them. The plot is ridiculous - can we take it for granted that nobody really
considers kidnapping a good route to romance? - and the songs are mostly so-so. The best
ones - "Bless Your Beautiful Hide," "Lonesome Polecat" and
"Wonderful Day" - were part of the score that Johnny Mercer and Gene De Paul
wrote for the original version of "Seven Brides," a 1954 movie.
Additional Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn songs contribute little to the stage version
- But when the stage explodes in one of the glorious
dance numbers, that doesn't matter. You just want it to go on and on - and it does. The
dances are splashy in style, emotionally appropriate and long enough to satisfy the
- The dazzling "Challenge Dance" boasts an
athletic style to show off male dancers as backwoodsmen vie with their citified neighbors
for the attention of young women at a church social. "Spring Dance" combines a
playful, flirtatious attitude - and more athletic high spirits - with a little ballet
inflection for romance. The show's conclusion, "Wedding Dance," brings a strong
American flavor (there are
hints of clogging) to a joyous celebration.
- Like "West Side Story," "Seven
Brides" uses dance to convey feelings with a compact eloquence that we recognize
faster than words. Adapted from a story by Stephen Vincent Benet, "Seven Brides"
builds its plot in the usual ways, with song and dialogue.But it relies on dance to give
that story emotional resonance - and entertainment value, too.
There are also appealing performances from the principals, two impressive singers. James Clow - whose Muny roles include Curly in "Oklahoma!"
- plays Adam, the head of a family living in the Oregon Territory in 1850. He goes to town
to find a wife who will bring order to the pigsty of a cabin he and his brothers share on
an isolated mountain. With good looks and a gallant gesture, he persuades a waitress to
marry him on the spot.
- Judy McLane plays the stunned bride with steadfast
poise; a scene in which she does mountains of laundry and fixes a huge breakfast before
dawn brings a striking touch of reality to the otherwise loony plot. When his brothers
long for brides of their own, Adam cheerily urges them to follow the example of the
ancient Romans who hauled off the Sabine women - and they do. Then an avalanche traps the
six town girls on the brothers' farm, for months. This is a musical comedy; it leads to
- With their strong voices and unpretentious stage
manner, Clow and McLane make a good couple. But they might
make a good couple in any number of shows. The distinctive character of this production -
youthful, frank, American - comes from its dance ensemble.
- Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
- The Muny
- Reviewed by Denise Hill
- Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at the Muny
Theatre in Forest Park is as close to a perfect production of this show as I can imagine. James Clow and Judy McLane are perfect as the romantic leads Adam
and Milly - they're attractive, they sing and dance well and they make a fabulous couple
- I've raved about their work in previous Muny
productions and this is no exception. They are supported by a solid ensemble cast of great
singers and dancers where every personality shines as an individual but plays as part of
- I have seen productions of this movie musical
transferred to the stage flop because the movie choreography is so athletic. Luckily this
production had the talents of choreographer Pepper Clyde, who made the transition work
perfectly. Beautiful costumes by Robert Fletcher and sets by James Wolk took the audience
to the Oregon Territory in 1850 without having to suspend too much disbelief and director
Thommie Walsh brought everything together in such a way that I could almost ignore the
weak book by Lawrence Kasha and David S. Landay.
- Clearly this production took what they were given
and created something far better in return. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the
talents of Britt Freund as Gideon. He stole the heart of the audience with his winsome
portrayal of Gideon and his trio of "Love Never Goes Away" with Judy McLane and James Clow was a highlight of the show.
- The audience was almost full last night and once
word gets out about this production I suspect tickets will be scarce. This is the best
production I've seen at the Muny this season. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is
playing at the Muny in Forest Park through August 6th. Call 314-361-1900 for ticket
- Seven Brides...spirited
dancing, strong casting make for enjoyable evening
by Dan Hines
Poor Judy McLane. She must
think it is her destiny to be surrounded by scruffy brothers' acts. She played the part of
the narrator with Donnie (sp) Osmond in "Technicolor Dream Coat," which featured the Biblical
Joseph's ill-begotten siblings. At The Muny, she was the wife of Adam, who has six
brothers who are examples of the value of having a good woman in the house.
The brothers steal the show.
They are great dancers, they are actually almost believable, first as slob mountain men
and later as moon struck lovers. Their dancing is great and they sing wonderfully.
Ms. McLane is a beautiful and talented ploy who teaches the
"boys" some manners for courting, only to see everything go awry when Adam,
played by James Clow, who has a
wonderful voice that seems made for the Muny stage, convinces the brothers to emulate
history and steal their brides like the Romans did with the "sobbin' women".
(Actually Sabine Women.)
Clow and McLane play well opposite each other. Let's hope that The Muny has
them back for more opportunities to pair up. There isn't much of a plot other to "Seven Brides", and
really not any particularly memorable songs. But the athletic and vigorous dancing makes
up for it. The costumes are colorful, and the "Brides" and the brothers seem to
have a great time.
There were some microphone
difficulties throughout the evening, but even that was okay. This wasn't meant to do
anymore than leave the audience leaving, remembering the dance ensembles. If the reaction
of the sold-out audience was any indication, The Muny succeeded.
- Kansas City
- Theater Review:
- "Seven Brides for Seven
- By ROBERT
EISELE - Special to The Star
- If the term family entertainment
is code for pleasant, undemanding and largely forgettable, then Starlight Theatre's
current production of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" certainly
- Based on Stanley Donen's 1954
movie musical from the glory days of MGM, "Brides" follows the tale of
the seven Pontipee brothers who have carved out a life for themselves from the Oregon
wilderness of the mid-19th century.
- Their mountain retreat has an
abundance of crops and livestock but a shortage of women. Eldest brother Adam (James Clow) sets out to rectify the situation by
taking Milly (Judy McLane), the spunky cook and waitress from a nearby town, for his
- Though Milly is at first
overwhelmed by Adam's six strapping siblings, she sets out to tame these rowdy mountain
men by introducing them to the fairer sex. But the boys get a little carried away in the
courting department and end up kidnapping six eligible women and ushering them off to
their mountaintop cabin.
- When an avalanche strands the men
and their would-be brides, conflicts erupt between Adam and Milly about the most honorable
way to make it through the winter. Suffice to say that the complications are ironed out in
time for a mass wedding when the spring thaw finally arrives.
- Clow and McLane are totally winning in the
show's leading roles. Clow sports an attractive baritone and an
engaging stage presence, and McLane has the kind of rafter-rousing theater voice that
could part your hair from a hundred feet away.
- Johnny Mercer and Gene De Paul's
original movie score has been augmented with some anachronistically contemporary tunes by
Al Kasha and Joel Hirschorn, which unfortunately lend the show a kind of musical split
- But the score has never been the
strong suit of "Brides." This has always been a piece that lives or
dies on the strength and scope of its epic dance sequences, and the Starlight production
doesn't disappoint in that department.
- Michael Kidd's original
choreography was robust and athletic, designed to take full advantage of the wide-screen
craze of the mid-1950s. Pepper Clyde's stage work takes up where Kidd left off, filling
Starlight's cavernous confines with swirling acrobatic movement.
- The "Challenge Dance" in
act one is the show's most memorable moment, with the brothers throwing down the gauntlet
to the women's more civilized in-town suitors. It is matched in intensity by a percussive,
celebratory "Wedding Dance" at evening's end.
- Director Thommie Walsh, a former
collaborator of Broadway's legendary Tommy Tune, handles the directorial chores capably,
keeping the action moving at a pace that doesn't call undue attention to Kasha and David
S. Landay's threadbare book.
- All content © 2001 The Kansas