Diamond celebration for brothers

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Wolverhampton Grand

****

HOW far you would get these days pitching an idea for a musical involving a bunch of backwoods rednecks bowling into some Oregon town, kidnapping half a dozen women and holing up with them for the winter would be . . . interesting.

It might go down well as an episode of Criminal Minds or CSI, but as a musical, and a musical comedy at that?

But Seven Brides is from the more innocent time of 1954 and the golden age of MGM musicals, and even in our PC world and transferred to the stage it still has an endearing appeal as it celebrates the Diamond Wedding of its brides and brothers.

Some of the songs are familiar but are hardly standards – you can’t imagine Sinatra or Buble singing Lonesome Polecat or even Bless Your Beautiful Hide but they are catchy and there are some nice ballads in there such as Love Never Goes Away and the new Where Were You?

This is a new restaged version and it has managed to keep the charm and innocence of the original film, with its hoedown, barn dance feel but most of all you can feel the enthusiasm of a cast who seem to be enjoying every minute on stage. And when the cast look like they are having fun it is infectious with the audience joining in.

Love never goes away for Sam Attwater as Adam and Helena Blackman as Millie

Sam Attwater has Hollyoaks and EastEnders in his CV along with winning Dancing on Ice and provides an agreeable Adam Pontipee (what were Albert Hackett, Frances Goodrich, and Dorothy Kingsley, who wrote the original screenplay, on when they came up with that surname one wonders).

He is the head of the family of seven brothers and he  is perhaps not as tough, gruff and ornery, as they say in those parts, as you might expect but this is musical theatre, not Deliverance we are talking about and he looks the part with a voice that is pleasant enough.

His wife, Millie, was courted in about 10 minutes on a shopping trip for vittles in town, when he had promised his six brothers he would also pick up a bride to do all the cooking and cleaning. He somehow forgot the bit about the six brothers, and the cooking an cleaning, when he proposed, which meant the wedding did not get off to the best of starts.

Millie, is played by Helena Blackman who deserves to be known for much more that being runner up on How Do You Solved a Problem Like Maria? She has a lovely voice and a CD, The Sound of Rodgers and Hammerstein, to her credit and gives Millie real authority as she whips the brothers into shape, no easy task as they would make the Dukes of Hazzard look sophisticated. She has the sort of stage presence you just can’t buy, and certainly can't teach.

As for the rest of the brides and brothers . . . the dancing and ensemble singing was just superb, although a short balletic sequence in the second act looks somewhat incongruous.

Add to that the equally talented young men from the township who had had their womenfolk kidnapped and you had a big cast with dancing of the highest order directed and choreographed by Broadway award winner Patti Colombo on an inventive set from Anna Louizos.

A mention too for the seven piece band under Bruce Knight who kept up a thigh slappin’ pace all night with a special mention for Jade Brightwell on fiddle – it says violin in the programme but out in the backwoods of Oregon, it’s a fiddle.

The brides and brothers are still fun 60 years on and this new, reworked production should give them a few more years yet. To 05-04-14.

Roger Clarke 

 

Meanwhile over the next ridge . . .

****

SOME of the choreography in this much-loved musical is simply breathtaking, with a livewire cast dancing, somersaulting and cartwheeling in a style that is a joy to watch.

Since the show is directed and choreographed by Broadway’s award-winning Patti Colombo, that shouldn’t surprise anyone.

There are some great songs, too, but Eastenders actor Sam Attwater, star of ITV’s Dancing on Ice, seems strangely out of place in the lead role of rough, tough backwoodsman Adam Pontipee who rides into town to do a bit of shopping and get a bride, omitting to tell her he has six hungry brothers living under the same cabin roof.

Attwater lacks the gravel voice and aggressive attitude required for such a key role, and when the musical was at Birmingham’s New Alexandra Theatre recently his understudy, Brummie Alex Hammond, was outstanding.

Helena Blackman impresses as Milly who accepts Adam’s quick marriage proposal and has to tame his uncouth brothers then teach them how to win over the girls in a town where men outnumber girls ten to one.

The brothers, the brides and the suitors all sparkle and with songs like Wonderful, Wonderful Day, Bless Your Beautiful Hide, Goin’ Courtin, Sobin’ Women and Glad That You Were Born, the show is a winner. To 05-04-14.

Paul Marston

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