Artisan Center Theater
Directed by Eve Roberts
Music Director – Richard Gwozdz
Choreographer – Michael Sylvester
Set Designer – JR Roberts, Nate Davis
Lighting Designer – Nate Davis
Costume Designer – Rebecca Roberts
Properties Designer – Chris Seil
Sound Designer – Rick Blair, Nate Davis
Stage Manager – Jonathan Scarborough, Hannah Cooper
CAST (from the reviewed performance)
Noel Allen – Adam
Meridith Stowe – Milly
Remi Budge – Benjamin
David Seil –Caleb
Michael Molina – Daniel
Michael Allen – Ephraim
Wesley Vaughan – Frank
Andrew Gentry – Gideon
Wendy Macy – Dorcas
Ashtyn Campbell – Ruth
Joanna Phillips – Martha
Jordan Thomas – Liza
Rebecca Roberts – Sarah
Joanna Berry – Alice
Kyle Davis – Nathan
Nicholas Davis – Luke
Everett Shirey – Matt
Jacob Taylor – Zeke
Jack Stowe – Joel
Collin Tooley – Jeb
Dan Johnston – Preacher
Travis Miller – Mr. Hoallum
Sonia Alcala – Mrs. Hoallum
Chris Seil – Mr. Sander
Laurie Long – Mrs. Sander
Reviewed Performance 5/16/2014
Reviewed by Angela Newby, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Once again, Artisan Center Theater has out done themself with their production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. As soon as I walked into the theater, there was a buzz and energy that cannot be adequately described in words. This is one musical that will keep you laughing all the way through!
The musical version of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is based on the 1954 film musical which is an adaptation of the short story “The Sobbin’ Women” by Stephen Vincent Benet, based on the ancient Roman legend of “The Rape of the Sabine Women.” After a national U.S. tour, the musical opened on Broadway in 1982 but quickly flopped. Revised versions have done well in regional theaters and amateur productions on both sides of the Atlantic since then. This one is definitely not a flop.
When backwoodsman Adam Pontipee comes down from his mountain home to find a bride from town in 1850 Oregon, he has an instant attraction to Milly. Adam is not completely forthcoming that he is the guardian of his six younger brothers, and Milly pushes through her responding anger to teach each how to court a girl. In town girls get kidnapped, conflicts arise, and an avalanche and a long winter all mix together for a comedic plot to this musical.
JR Roberts and Nate Davis came up with a complex set design that works well together. Within the four sections of the theater, they create both the town and the mountain side home of the Pontipee family. From the moment you enter the theater, you feel you are in the country with the mountains in view and not a care in the world or in a tiny mountain town store. From the deer hanging on the wall in the cabin to the general store’s candy dishes, every element of the set design was carefully thought through. The one element that stands out nicely is the projection screen used to help highlight the locations. They don’t feel like projections but more like a part of the set.
Lighting, also designed by Nate Davis, is a huge undertaking for this production. There are so many different moods that are enhanced through the lighting, and wouldn’t be the same without the design elements Davis put into it. His lighting moves the musical forward and helps set the tone of the scenes. In the fight scene between the brothers and the town’s boys, a strobe light meshes with the choreography to allow a slow-motion effect. Davis focuses on different colors to effectively change from daylight to nighttime, from the town to the woods, and all bring a special mood to the musical.
Choreographer Michael Sylvester has outdone himself in this production. His attention to detail to get eighteen actors working on the tiny stage is an art. Sylvester takes the varied talents of each cast member and meshes them into a beautiful performance. Energy abounds throughout the musical due to the work Sylvester puts into the dance scenes. Detailed choreography within the fight scenes not only makes one feel the heat of the moment, but received a gasp of awe from the audience.
Music Director Richard Gwozdz helps the cast shine within their musical abilities. In large casts, it is the ensemble that brings true harmony and emotion to the production and showcases their talents. The score is just an additional element that sets the tone, from the sorrowful “Love Never Goes Away” with Adam, Gideon and Milly to a sunshine moment in “Wonderful Day” with Adam and Milly.
The one true disappointment within the production is from the sound design. There are clear issues with the cast’s microphones and the overlay of the track for the songs. It is difficult to impossible to hear the actors. The music tracks are too loud and wash the voices out. This is not an issue when lines are being spoken though.
Chris Seil, Properties Designer, has an eye for detail. Through careful consideration, there is not one unnecessary item placed on the set. The use of real food adds an element of authenticity, with the uncouth brothers cramming food in their mouths and the crumbs falling to the ground. There is a true1850’s feel to the tin dishes and the wood burning stove that help remind of the ways of days gone by.
Costumes are spot on. Rebecca Roberts does a marvelous job bringing the time period and setting to life through careful design and detail of fabrics. The girls are all in calico, plaids or plain dresses, enhanced by their shawls and bonnets. It is interesting to see the costumes change as winter presses on. The quilt material shows the ingenuity of mountain women to use whatever means necessary to clothe the entire family through the harsh winter. The town boys’ ties and vest and slacks lent a very affluent and haughty attitude, whereas the brothers show a more minimal lifestyle in plaid shirts, sturdy pants and work boots.
Director Eve Roberts did an outstanding job casting the roles, from the town’s boys and girls to Adam and Milly. There is a charismatic connection amongst the ensemble that brings energy to the stage. Roberts uses the whole auditorium to showcase this musical. Be careful not to miss the action in the wings around the main stage. It is in these side action moments that the story is continuing to be told. Every cast member is truly needed to tell the story of the seven brothers. They perform well as a team and the direction from Roberts is what allows each of them to take ownership of their character.
Noel Allen, as Adam, does a superior job playing the eldest brother. Through slumped shoulders and a gleaning eye, Allen portrays the burden of raising his brothers without a woman’s touch. Allen lets his eyes shine with a never felt before love that allows one to see beyond Adam’s rough demeanor. His rich voice is displayed well in “Where Were You?”, and Adam’s frustration can be seen in his clenched fist and stern eyes. Allen has the arrogant stance and mannerisms of a man in charge that only adds to Adam’s uncertainty .
Meredith Stowe portrayal of Milly is amazing. Her mannerisms are warm and heartfelt when dealing with the brothers and Adam. She has the presence of the girl next door, but the spitfire energy of a scorned woman when treated as a hired hand instead of a wife. Stowe’s vocal achievement reigns in “Love Never Goes Away” and “Wonderful Day”, each one soulful and heartwarming. Through her simple smiles, doe eyes, and gentle touches, Stowe beautifully shows the fondness Milly finds for the Pontipee Brothers, all seven of them, and her characterization, solid voice and stern eyes reflect Milly’s strength as she stands up to Adam.
The townspeople ensemble represents the bias that comes from different groups not knowing each other before making judgment. They blend well together and you could see the love of the two older couples by their holding hands and stealth glances. It is the suitors in town, though, that know how to show the affluence and better-than-attitude when dealing with the brothers.
The girls are beyond adorable and know how to work the audience. They have the school-girl charm down pat and harmonize well in “Spring Dance.” Joanna Berry, as Alice, is the youngest of the girls and fully plays the “puppy love” bride to Gideon. Her squished nose and tilted head makes the audience buy into her wily ways. The rest of the girls each have stand out moments, yet blend together as an integral part of the musical.
With the name Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, this musical is all about the brothers. There is no doubt the men portraying the brothers bring the show to a higher level. It’s hard to remember these are actors working together because they react just like brothers. From sarcastic words to their fights, each are cast to their strengths.
Andrew Gentry’s Gideon has a soulful voice that is highlighted in “Love Never Goes Away”. Gentry portrays his character’s youthfulness by constantly pulling his hair and looking over his head to show his insecurity of what the world holds. Remi Budge, as Benjamin, plays the second oldest brother’s maturity through an unwavering attention to support his brothers. Gentry’s strong vocals easily distinguish his within the harmony of the other brothers.
This musical would not be the same without the comedic antics of David Seil as Caleb. It is hard not to laugh at him throughout as his playful attitude makes it believable that Caleb loves his life. Seil has a way to contort his face to make the audience laugh out loud, no matter what his line is. It is easy to see him ad-lib and flow between the cast with ease. His wiry, quick movements only lead to a charming smile that will definitely make his bride fall for him!
Artisan Center Theater’s production is an outstanding musical and the acting and singing entertaining. The set takes you up to the mountains and the costumes to another time in history. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers will be the highlight of your summer, make sure you get your ticket today!
SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS
Artisan Center Theater
418 E. Pipeline Road
Hurst, Texas 76053
Runs through June 28th
Monday/Tuesday/Thursday/Friday/Saturday at 7:30 pm and Saturday at 3:00 pm
Weekday tickets are $16.00 and $7.00 for children(12 under) . Weekend tickets are $20.00, $18.00 for seniors (60+)/students, and $9.00 for children. Group rate tickets are also available.
For information and to purchase tickets, go to www.artisanct.com or call the box office at 817-284-1200.