There’s a lot more reasons than simply seven to go see “Seven Brothers For Seven Brothers” at “The La Mirada Theater Of The Performing Arts” where their latest offering, a high-spirited revival of the classic MGM musical‘s stage adaptation, opened on Friday, April 12. Indeed, a special kind of magic is being conjured there. This dazzler may start out small enough, but the utter vibrancy and unabashed joy this production is overflowing with sort of sneaks up on you; once it does though, you’re in for one thoroughly pleasing thrill ride! Produced by McCoy-Rigby Entertainment and with a book by Lawrence Kasha and David Landay, the original film was based on an earlier one titled “The Sobbin’ Women” adapted from Stephen Vincent Benet’s short story, “The Sobbin‘ Women“ (which itself was loosely inspired by the Roman Playwright Plutarch’s “The Sabine Women”.) Music, Lyrics and New Songs are by Johnny Mercer, Gene De Paul, Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn.
Set in the year 1850, somewhere nestled along the verdant Oregon Trial fresh-faced young Milly marries rugged mountain man Adam Pontipee after meeting him the very same day; what she doesn’t bargain for though, is also inheriting his six unruly bachelor brothers (–all named, more or less, alphabetically after some Old-Testament hero.) Luckily however, there’s one remedy–to see them all married off. Meeting six like-minded young ladies at a dance, the brothers later kidnap their would-be intendeds, even going so far as to cause an avalanche to avoid being followed by anyone. Trouble is, before doing this, they forget to obtain the services of the town’s local preacher who can make the entire arrangement ’respectable’, which doesn’t set at all well with Milly. Living in “A God Fearing Territory“, she kicks the boys out to stay in the barn while she and the girls settle into the house until spring when such proper weddings can take place! It’s a frustrating, hilarious, and tune-filled winter–and thanks to Glenn Casale’s expert direction a very lively and entertaining one too!
Casale directs at a swift and steady pace but never so fast that any of the comic potential the script is loaded with ever gets overlooked. Together with his company they deliver a big boisterous shot-gun wedding-times-seven blasting fun with both barrels! Kevin Earley as Adam makes his boyishly charming, “scruffy on the surface” impact felt right from the opening with the initial solo verses of “Bless Your Beautiful Hide” wherein he belts-out his hopes to meet ‘a gal whose pretty and sweet but saucy as can be”’ while on a rare visit to town for supplies. Opposite him, Beth Malone makes a thoroughly delightful presence too, as his ‘proud and spunky‘ wife, Milly. Both have voices capable of raining the roof when needed and shine especially in their sung-soliloquies–hers in the first act with “I Married Seven Brothers“ once Milly is unceremoniously introduced to her new ’home’ (and gets the rude awakening that it’s a complete pig’s sty!) His occurs with the powerful Act Two interlude, “Where Were You?” as he provides some insight into his family’s background as well as the responsibilities and burdens being the oldest has entailed. Earley and Malone also demonstrate a nice progression in the maturity of their characters–hers from a wholesome girl-next-door who’s just dewy-eyed enough to run off with her “Backwoods Prince Charming” after only a single day’s flirtation, into a calm, serene-yet-strong matronly figure to all the younger girls; his, from a brash lad–unkempt bearded and headstrong, who eventually becomes “a man with a lions’ heart” tough enough to admit when he’s wrong.
It’s much trickier to assert who stands out among the brothers–ALL of them do! They are: Karl Warden as Benjamin, Carson Twtchell as Caleb, Brian Steven Shaw as Daniel, Eric Stretch as Ephraim, Keith A. Bearden as Frank (short for “Frankincense”) and Neil Starkenberg as youngest brother, Gideon. All appropriately rowdy, immediately likeable and supremely talented. Matching them step-for-step, note-for-note and laugh-for-laugh are their “Brides” : Kim Taylor as Dorcas, Kim Arnett as Ruth, Heidi Bradley as Martha, Hannah Simmons as Liza, Tro Shaw as Sarah, and Ashley Anderson McCarthy as Alice. Special mention also has to be given to the particularly stylish scenic design. Utilizing no curtain or show-drop, the lush, woody set design that greets spectators immediately and effectively recalls both the look and feel of America’s Pacific North West set against a backdrop of sprawling mountains. Later, the “Avalanche” so key to the plot is niftily achieved by a rising white upstage curtain of “snow” which obscures this ’view’ at the proper moment.
Likewise, given that the movie was so renowned for its near-monumental dance sequences, the choreography here by Patti Colombo is a colossal achievement in its own right ! From the jaunty Square-dance featuring the townspeople in “Gallant And Correct” to the grand wedding dance in the finale, Colombo’s staging and movement are top of the line! The over-all style here is Ballet meets country hoe-down or a church social were it held as an Olympic Gymnastic s event. In fact, so impressive and important is the choreography to all the goings-on that it wouldn’t be too out of line to say it’s actually like an unaccredited co-star–one who, in this respect, triumphs every time it takes the stage. Act One features an awesome one-two knockout punch starting as Milly tries to put a little civilizing’ in to her new kin with the rousing number “Goin’ Courtin’, by the end of which we discover this burly brood cleans up pretty well. The next scene takes the sheer exuberance demonstrated there to even greater heights occurring at a Harvest Celebration wherein the boys take what they’ve learned and charm their potential lady-loves with an athletic and kinetic ‘challenge’ dance against their town rivals. (At opening weekend’s performance this was met with thunderous audience approval that went on and on!) Word is, Ms. Colombo initially tailored these moves from an earlier presentation of the piece she worked on at Connecticut‘s famous “Goodspeed Opera House; now, she’s incorporated all her best steps but has kept open enough to alter them in order to best spotlight this particular cast’s own unique–and numerous–strengths. Moreover, she cleverly throws in a couple of nods to Michael Kidd’s’ ground-breaking choreography from the cinematic version while still creating huge terpsichorean extravaganzas ’stamped’ with her own particular ’brand’.
“Seven Brides For Seven Brothers” will run for four weeks through Sunday, May 5. Curtain-times are 7:30 pm on Wednesdays & Thursdays; 8 pm on Fridays; 2 pm and 8 pm on Saturdays; and 2 pm on Sundays. (There will be no matinee on Saturday, April 13.) In addition, special “Talkbacks” with the actors after the show will be held on Wednesday, April 17 and Wednesday, May 1. Tickets can be purchased at La Mirada Theatre’s website at www.lamiradatheatre.com , or by calling the Box Office at (562) 944-9801 or (714) 994-6310. Student, Senior, Children and group discounts are available. “The La Mirada Theatre For The Performing Arts” is located at 14900 La Mirada Boulevard in La Mirada, California (near the intersection of Rosecrans Avenue where the 91 and 5 freeways meet.) Forget the rice–bring yourselves to “The La Mirada Theater For The Performing Arts” to see what is sure to rank as on of So Cal’s great theatrical experiences of 2013!
Photos By Michael Lamont courtesy of Demand PR and McCoy-Rigby Entertainment; Special Thanks to David Elzer at Demand PR (www.demandpr.com) Tom McCoy at McCoy-Rigby Entertainment (www.mccoyrigby.com) Tanya Tarantino, and the cast and crew of “Seven Brides For Seven Brothers” at “The La Mirada Theatre For The Performing Arts” (www.lamiradatheatre.com) for making this story possible.