"Seven Brides for Seven Brothers"
Goodspeed Musicals, East Haddam, CT
The 1982 Broadway show “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” now on the Goodspeed Stage, proves to be whomping good entertainment. Never mind that this supposed tale of the Oregon territory of the 1850s has a trivial plot and less than memorable tunes, but it’s a good-natured show all the same. And the strength of this particular production lies in its choreography, dancing, and staging.
It’s amazing that director Greg Ganakas can marshal his troops as well as he does. A cast of some 25 performers moves about on Goodspeed’s pocket-size stage as if they had the whole Oregon territory at their disposal. Production numbers are not only rousing, but beautifully, precisely staged. And while choreographer Patti Columbo captures the feel of that time and place, she puts her unique stamp on the dance routines. She continually explores new ideas, which makes for inspired production numbers. And she has at her disposal not only first-rate dancers, but dancers with acrobatic skills as well.
This version of the Far West is far from the gritty realities of those harsh times. It is Broadway’s jokey version of pioneering days. But having once accepted this nonsense, one can enjoy the shenanigans of this carefully-crafted production.
As to the story, Adam Pontipee comes to town to get himself a bride, and he succeeds in carrying off the feisty Milly, bringing her to his backwoods home. He needs to find a housekeeper and mother for his six younger brothers, while she needs to escape a dead-end job as a waitress. But there is strong physical attraction as well. For Adam and Milly (at least as played by Burke Moses and Jacquelyn Piro), the chemistry works.
Milly of course was not informed of the six young hoodlums she would encounter at the Pontipee home. But she takes it in stride, and consequently the animals are tamed. The brothers learn to take baths, to comb their hair, and to practice table manners. And soon they, too, are seeking wives. Seven brides for seven brothers.
Jacquelyn Piro is a Julia Roberts look-alike and a most appealing Milly. She shares the top billing with Moses, who is a veritable bear of a man, with a strong presence and plenty of sex appeal. The two romp through the show, handling their roles with aplomb. Backing them up are the brothers and their lady loves and the townspeople, all working together as a strong ensemble.
But stars of the show are also the director and his design team. The show moves smoothly from place to place in all 17 scenes. A buckboard comes on stage, and is disassembled to serve each new scene. Its wagon wheels and planks become table tops or barn décor as needed. The town, the farm, the church, all come to life, enhanced by the design work of Russell Metheny (set), Gregory Gale (costumes), and Michael Lincoln (lighting).
-- Irene Backalenick
May 11, 2005