SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS
Music by Gene de Paul, Lyrics by Johnny Mercer, Book by Lawrence Kasha and David Landay, New Songs by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn
Originally Directed for Broadway by Lawrence Kasha, Produced by Kaslan Productions, Inc., with Dance Music Arrangements by Sam Davis
Plaza Theatre Company
Director – Tina Barrus & Tabitha Barrus
Music Director – Tabitha Barrus
Stage Manager – Monica Glenn
Assistant Stage Manager – Hannah Midkiff
Choreographer – Tabitha Barrus
Costume Design – Tina Barrus
Set Design – JaceSon P. Barrus
Light Design – Cameron Barrus
Property Design – Ann Spohn, Hannah Midkiff
Prop Assistant – Mar Almond
Scenic Painting – Jodi Ray
Adam Pontipee – JaceSon P. Barrus
Milly – Daron Cockerell
Preacher – Steven Lindsay
Mr. Bixby – Doug Henry
Mrs. Bixby – Sherry Clark
Little Girl Bixby – Allie Bond
Alice – Emma Colwell
Dorcas – Katherine Anthony
Ruth – Victoria Trimble
Liza – Emma Dalley
Martha – Tiffany Trimble
Sarah – Jillian Harrison
Gideon – David Midkiff
Benjamin – Daniel Scott Robinson
Caleb – Stephen Singleton
Daniel – Cameron Barrus
Ephraim – Ryan Siler
Frank – Jake Harris
Jeb – Nolan Moralez
Nathan – David Goza
Luke – Nate Milson
Matt – Michael Sorter
Joel – Jacob Renfroe
Zeke – Christian Loper
** Some parts are double cast. This listing shows the cast as reviewed. **
Reviewed Performance 3/19/2016
Reviewed by Nicole Mulupi, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is a stage musical about a backwoodsman of 1850’s Oregon who rides into town, gets himself a wife, and brings her back home to serve him and his six brothers in their cabin in the mountains. He ends up getting more than he bargained for, though. Milly, the deceived bride—when she realizes that she also got a whole lot more than she bargained for—has no intention of being a maid and a cook to six men; so, she urges her brothers-in-law to clean themselves up, learn some manners and go into town to find some wives of their own. Her plan backfires when, under the direction of her husband, the young men end up kidnapping six women and causing an avalanche that keeps them stranded in the mountains until the snow melts and opens the pass in the spring.
First produced in 1954 as a movie musical, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is an adaptation of the short story, “The Sobbin’ Women,” a short story written by Stephen Vincent Benét which parodies the Ancient Roman legend, “The Rape of the Sabine Women,” (where “rape” is another word for abduction…this is a G-rated production). The film was directed by Stanley Donen, who had his start in Hollywood as a dancer and choreographer. As a director, he was best known for his collaborations with Gene Kelly, most notably Singing in the Rain. For this film, Donen recruited Michael Kidd as choreographer. He later said of Kidd, “His contribution to the film was gigantic.” And he was right. The barn-raising dance from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is still one of the most celebrated choreography sequences in Hollywood. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and it won the award for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture.
Seven new songs, written by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn, were added for the stage musical, which opened on Broadway in 1982 at the Alvin Theatre. It flopped on Broadway, closing after only five performances in three days. Although it did not find success there, it has been performed all over the world to positive reviews, and the score received a Tony nomination.
Plaza Theatre Company directors Tina Barrus and Tabitha Barrus offer a faithful adaptation of this beloved musical, presented on a central stage by a strong cast of actors, singers and dancers. Armed with multiple COLUMN Awards, both Tina Barrus’s costumes and Tabitha Barrus (doing double duty as choreographer and music director) stay true to the film musical, so fans of the original will be pleased.
In the theatre, scenic painter Jodi Ray painted seven birch trees on the walls around the theatre, each carved with a heart and the names of a different couple—the seven brides and seven brothers. A white number “7” was painted on the center stage floor with seven red pairs of lips painted inside. The room looked rather bare, but I imagine that it would be difficult to cover the walls in murals for a new show every month.
The set design by JaceSon P. Barrus was not as elaborate as it could have been, but it was still pretty good. In one corner of the theatre, between two audience sections, there is a small side stage, and there are four areas around the theatre from which actors can enter and exit. The natural scenery is all digital, shown on three separate screens around the theatre. The screen behind the side stage was used as a backdrop in several scenes. The window in the bedroom was a great choice, adding a lot to the scene in which Adam climbs out of the window to sleep in the tree when he is initially rejected by the newly-wed Milly. Most set pieces were relatively small and practical—tables, chairs, logs, a dry sink, a well, etc.
There were some sound issues that distracted from the performance, especially in the first few scenes. The performers sang to a prerecorded track, which was sometimes not loud enough. Some of the townspeople who did not have microphones were hard to hear, and some did not have their mics turned up. Another time, I heard one or two microphones making that “popping” sound you hear when wires come loose. The sound tech seemed to get everything sorted out before Act II, though.
Light design by Cameron Barrus was alright, but nothing special. Sometimes, the lights were very dim for no apparent reason. Mostly, lighting was used for practicality, rather than artistry.
The show starts with COLUMN Award winner JaceSon P. Barrus as Adam Pontipee, singing “Bless Your Beautiful Hide.” This was the only scene in the show that I found completely uninspired, and it was a terrible way to introduce the main character. The song itself is rather insulting, actually, so it’s difficult for the character to be charming as he sings it. Even Barrus seemed to be almost apologetic in the way he performed, as though he knew that this was not the best of his scenes. He was given no props, no set pieces, and no choreography. All he does is walk around singing to the audience. Because there is absolutely no emotional depth to the character (or in the lyrics of the song), there is nothing for the audience to “feel”. With nothing to feel, and nothing to watch, this scene just felt awkward. Once the other characters began appearing on the scene, it got a little better. Still, when Adam proposes to Milly in the next scene, it is hard to imagine what she sees in him, as we have been given so little to admire up to that point. There is also quite an age gap between the characters—and not only between Adam and Milly, but also between Adam and the rest of his brothers. I could not help wondering, with such a large number of males in the cast, if there was not a younger man that could have been cast as leading man. Though undoubtedly talented, JaceSon P. Barrus did not seem to be the best choice for the role of Adam Pontipee.
The role of Milly is played brilliantly by COLUMN Award winner Daron Cockerell. She is so at-ease and comfortable within her character that the aura of reality that surrounds her begins to spread to the other actors, as well. She is the glue that holds this show together and makes it work. Even though I thought she and Barrus’s Adam Pontipee made an unlikely pair, she behaved as though it was the most natural thing in the world. She is ten times better, as an actress and as a singer, than Jane Powell was in the film. Adam’s alphabetically named brothers, Benjamin, Caleb, Daniel, Ephraim, Frank (whose full name—to his great distress and his brothers’ great delight—is Frankincense) and Gideon are played by Daniel Scott Robinson, Stephen Singleton, Cameron Barrus, Ryan Siler, Jake Harris, and David Midkiff, respectively. Singleton and Midkiff impress with their strong dancing skills and vibrant personalities; Robinson and Harris, with their comic characterizations and charisma. The six brothers play off each other throughout, each with his own unique personality. Whether fighting each other, defending each other, or helping each other learn how to be gentlemen, these guys function as a team and they are fun to watch.
The six kidnapped brides, Alice, Dorcas, Ruth, Liza, Martha and Sarah are played by Emma Colwell, Katherine Anthony, Victoria Trimble, Emma Dalley, Tiffany Trimble, and Jillian Harrison. All of them were skilled singers, dancers and actresses. There was not a weak link among them. Emma Colwell (who last month won the COLUMN Award for Best Actress in A Play) and Katherine Anthony were especially engaging as Alice and Dorcas. Victoria Trimble was given most of the complicated dance bits, which she performed beautifully. As with the brothers, the brides made an entertaining ensemble.
In addition to the leads, there were strong supporting and company performances all-around. Vocally, the cast performs excellently, in unison and in harmony. Highlights of the show include “Wonderful, Wonderful Day,” with lovely harmonies by the brides, and “Sobbin’ Women,” a raucous, energetic piece featuring the brothers. The directors made good use of the stage in “The Chase”, in which the entire company is running in and out through four different entrances and exits, as the brothers chase the ladies who resist being returned home, and as the suitors and townsfolk descend upon the Pontipees with their guns ready. All of the chaos culminates in a shotgun wedding when all of the ladies claim to have mothered the same baby (actually, the daughter of Adam and Milly).
Despite a weak beginning, the show was very entertaining. With a lot of laughs, and great musical and dance numbers, Plaza Theatre Company’s production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is a heel-stomping good time that is fun for the whole family.
SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS
Plaza Theatre Company, 111 S. Main St. Cleburne, TX 76033
Runs through April 23, 2016
Performances run Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30pm and Saturday matinees at 3:00pm. Tickets cost $15 for Adults, $14 for seniors (65+), $14 for Students (HS/ College), and $13 for Children (12 and under). Tickets can be purchased at the Box Office at (817) 202-0600 or online at http://plaza-theatre.com/.