SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERSBook by Lawrence Kasha and David Landay
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Music by Gene dePaul
New Songs by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn
Garland Summer Musicals
Director – Buff Shurr
Producer – Patty Granville
Associate Director/Stage Manager – J. Alan Hanna
Music Director/Conductor – Larry Miller
Choreographer – Kelly McCain
Fight Choreographers – Morgan Beach, Quinn Moran, and J. Alan Hanna
Lighting Design – Scott Guenther, SEG Services
Costume Design – Michael A. Robinson, Dallas Costume Shoppe
Sound Design – Tyler Payne, Ultimate AVT, Inc.
Set Design – Kelly cox
Props/Set Dressing – Dayna S. Fries
Adam Pontipee – Michael Isaac
Mr. Sander – Kyle Hancock
Mrs. Sander – Linda Frank
Mr. Hoallum – Neil Rogers
Mrs. Hoallum – Caren Sharpe-Herbst
Preacher – Phil Alford
Sarah – Annie Cahill
Martha – Alena Cardenas
Liza – Mary Margaret Gates
Dorcas – Gena Loe
Nathan – Kevin Davis, Jr.
Milly Brandon – Lauren LeBlanc
First Lumberman – Steven E. Beene
Second Lumberman – Luis Salazar
Ruth – Alison Leigh
Alice – Ireland Reneau
Caleb Pontipee – Dakota Davis
Ephraim Pontipee – Jake Kelly Harris
Daniel Pontipee – Brady Neal
Benjamin Pontipee – Quinn Moran
Frank Pontipee – Cameron Vance
Gideon Pontipee – Ryan Caviola
Zeke – Ryan Ramirez
Jeb – Joel Harrison Jenkins
Matt – Adam Henley
Luke – Caleb Frank
Joel – Nate Frederickson
Townsfolk – Steven E. Beene, Alli Franken, Maya Ferrer, Nathan May, Parker Niksich, Luis Salazar, Timothy Turner-Parrish, Lori Jones Rogers, Marcos Samuel Villegas, and Adelaide Willert.
Onstage Musicians – Neil Rogers, Kyle Hancock and Marcos Samuel Villegas.
Conductor – Larry Miller, Violin 1 – Tonda Sykes, Violin 2/Viola – Rob Amberson, Violin 3 – Christine Aeschbacher, Reed 1 – Carolyn Keyes, Reed 2 – Andrew Stonerock, Reed 3 – Matthew Banks, Trumpet 1 – Phil West, Horn 1 – Charlotte O’Connor Trombone – Paul Birk, Keyboard 1 – Jon Schweikhard, Keyboard 2 -Chris Widomsky, String Bass – Mathew Frerck, Drums – Michael Dooley.
Reviewed Performance: 7/19/2019
Reviewed by Chris Hauge, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
“Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” is a 1978 stage adaptation of the 1954 MGM musical directed by Stanley Donen and Starring Jane Powell and Howard Keel with lyrics by Johnny Mercer, music by Gene dePaul and Saul Chaplin, and choreographed by Michael Kidd (Thank you, Wikipedia!). The film is especially remembered for it’s unique and energetic dance numbers. It is highly regarded as a classic and it is hard to get the movie out of your head while watching the stage play. It’s especially hard for me because the movie is locked into my memory as one of the movies my mother sat me down in front of the television to watch when I was a kid (‘It’s a movie you just have to see.’) and it helped influence and nourish my love for the arts. So, it should be impossible for the stage adaptation to measure up to the original, right?
Buff Shurr and his team of actors and production staff have conquered that problem with ease. They have created their own work of art, with homages to the original material but with a heart uniquely its own.
We are taken to the wilderness outside of a frontier town where we meet Adam Pontipee (Michael Isaac), a rough mountaineer coming into town to get flour, coffee, chewing tobacco, and a wife for his ranch. Singing the song “Bless Your Beautiful Hide”, he eyes the all the women, evaluating them like livestock, until he happens upon Millie (Lauren LeBlanc), whose good looks and spunk convince him that she is the gal for him. He immediately asks her to marry him, she accepts and off they go to his cabin in the woods, where a surprise awaits Millie.
She is greeted by Adam’s six dirty and ill-behaved brothers, Benjamin (Quinn Moran), Caleb (Dakota Davis), Daniel (Brady Neal), Ephraim (Jake Kelly Harris), Frankincense aka Frank (Cameron Vance), and Gideon (Ryan Caviola). Adam shows Millie where the laundry tub and the kitchen are and makes it clear that she is to cook and clean for all of them. Millie will have none of it. She takes control of the situation by cleaning up the brothers and teaching them enough manners to go to town to find girls of their own at the local social. Each of the brothers become smitten with a town girl but because of a brawl, they are banned from the town and are separated from the objects of their affection. To console them, big brother Adam suggests a solution inspired by Plutarch’s classic “Rape (abduction) of the Sabine Women”. And chaos ensues.
There are parts of the story that make me cringe. The overt sexism of Adam is meant to be humorous but in today’s climate it comes across as callous objectifying of women. And the idea kidnapping young girls makes me shiver with discomfort. But this production makes these aspects of the script minor to the over-all theme of love conquers all and has an atmosphere of great fun.
Set designer Kelly Cox ably takes us from the mountains to the town and on to the Pontipee ranch with the use of gorgeous backdrops and platform units. We are even taken into the forest, with individual trees to hide behind during a chase scene. The costumes by Michael A. Robinson of Dallas Costume Shoppe echo the movie by giving each of Adam’s brothers and their prospective brides specifically colored costume, a sort of shorthand to keep track of who is who during the show. Mr. Robinson ably supplied the rest of the cast with clothing that reflects the rustic nature of the show, from Adam’s leather mountain man outfit to the coats and hats of menfolk of the town, and the skirts and bonnets of the women.
The choreography of Kelly McCain evokes the spirit of the dances in the film with grace and athleticism. I found it to be great fun and, while I didn’t get dancers balancing on a beam, I found it to have its own power and personality.
Ably conducted by music director Larry Miller, the pit orchestra provided the pulse that propelled the show forward. Three songs from the original movie were kept in the stage adaptation (“Bless Your Beautiful Hide”, “Wonderful, Wonderful Day”, and “Lonesome Polecat”). The rest are new numbers written for the show by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn. If you had not seen the movie, you wouldn’t notice any difference in the songs. And they are sung with skill by the wonderful group of actors Buff Shurr has cast.
As Adam, Michael Isaac embraces the sexism of the character and is not afraid to come across as an insensitive boor. That is Adam. Having had to raise himself, he sees getting a wife as pragmatically as trading a horse or buying supplies. Mr. Isaac plays him with force and skill. His singing is remarkable. The song “Where were you?”, a song which made me more aware of how pig-headed and stubborn the character of Adam is, was a bravura performance. In the program we are told that Mr. Isaac is moving to New York after this show closes. I wish him luck to go along with his substantial talent as he begins this new chapter in his life.
Just as Millie is the equal to Adam, so Lauren LeBlanc is the equal to Mr. Isaac in talent and strength. One of my favorite songs from the show is “Wonderful, Wonderful Day”, and Ms. LeBlanc sings it with exuberance infused with the wonder of a woman feeling love for the first time. Her voice is a gorgeous instrument which easily delivers ballads and angry songs like “I Married Seven Brothers” with grace and expertise. And there is this feeling of elation I feel when I watch her perform. I look forward to seeing her again.
The motley crew of Adam’s six brothers is capably handled by Quinn Moran as Benjamin, Dakota Davis as Caleb, Brady Neal as Daniel, Jake Kelly Harris as Ephraim, Cameron Vance as Frank, and Ryan Caviola as Gideon. Each is gifted but together they are very funny and sweet. The girls they fall for are winningly played by Annie Cahill as Sarah, Alena Cardenas as Martha, Mary Margaret Gates as Liza, Gena Loe as Dorcas, Alison Leigh As Ruth, and Ireland Reneau as Alice. Each actress makes their characters uniquely their own and they are fun to watch.
As is always the case for large cast musicals, there are so many people involved both onstage and off that it is hard to make sure that everyone gets specific recognition. So, a big thank you to all who invested your time and talent to bring this production to life. And another thank-you for the gift you gave last night’s opening night audience and for the gift you are going to give to every audience during the run of the show. It’s wonderful.
If you are not familiar with Garland Summer Musicals, read the information below and see about getting tickets to attend. Then, perhaps like my wife and me, you will drive home with “Bless Your Beautiful Hide” running through your head and you may feel happy. Trust me, just try it.
Garland Summer Musicals
July 19 – 28, 2019
Friday - Saturday – 8:00PM
Sunday – 2:30PM
The Brownlee Auditorium at the Granville Arts Center
300 N. Fifth St. Garland, TX 75040
For Tickets and more information call 972-205-2790
Or visit on the Web at www.garlandsummermusicals.org