Adapted from the 1954 MGM movie of the same name, the stage version of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is an unashamedly old fashioned, feel-good musical; the type of show that should have audiences leaving the theatre humming and feeling that they’ve experienced a nice night’s entertainment. Under Fran Edwards’ faithful direction, Northern Light Theatre Company’s version does just that.
Like many a Disney fairytale, the light-hearted Seven Brides for Seven Brothers comes from darker stock. Set in 1850s Oregon, the story is based on not only the film’s screenplay but, believe it or not, very loosely on Stephen Vincent Benet’s short story, The Sobbin’ Women, and the original ancient Roman legend of the rape of the Sabine women (although there’s no such violence in this retelling).
It revolves around mountain man, Adam Pontipee, taking himself a wife, Millie, to look after him and his six brothers. Once the brothers have discovered the joys of the opposite sex, Adam sends them into the township to pick their own intendeds and to bring them back home, just as the Romans did with those “Sobbin’ women”.
Edwards brings out the humour and warmth of the script quite well, but the pace could be picked up in a couple of places, notably the chase scene in Act Two. Overall However, she proves that she knows what pleases an audience, as does musical director, Helen Loveday. Loveday conducts an orchestra that is pleasant and not over-powering, allowing us to hear such glories as Sophia Bubner’s (Millie) beautiful rendering of Glad That You Were Born; Jai Cafarella’s (Gideon) stirring tenor part in Love Never Goes Away; Nathan Quadrio’s (Frank) booming baritone in We Gotta Make it Through The Winter; and the excellent harmonies of the ensemble during I Married Seven Brothers.
This reviewer admits to being a huge fan of Kerry-Lynne Hauber’s choreography and she once again does not disappoint. Hauber uses precision and timing to seemingly effortless effect, and her routines for this production are no exception, especially when it comes to choreographing for the brides, the brothers and the suitors; all of whom carry them off with verve, energy and a fair amount of confidence.
The brides (played by Bianca Levi, Vanessa Redmond, Laura Shelly, Charlotte Berrill, Samantha Hayes and Alexandra Shelley) are nicely sweet and lovable; whilst Griff Bartel, Graham Loveday, Ben Fleming, Cody Mulady, Josiah Salagaras and Daniel Watkins all do fine work as the suitors.
Adam’s six brothers are almost the lynch pin of the show, and this production has six of the best in Tom Drenthen, Simon Ngui, Brett Green, Joshua White, Quadrio and Cafarella. These performers are extremely entertaining and totally convince as brothers who bond. While they are all good, it is Drenthen, White, Quadrio and Carfarella that stand out in particular.
Unfortunately, first night nerves seemed to plague Matt Redmond as Adam at the start of the show, making him rather stiff for the first couple of scenes, and his lack of a lower register hampered the strength of numbers such as Bless Your Beautiful Hide, but towards the end of Act One he seemed to gain in confidence and showed his vocal talents in numbers such as Sobbin’ Women and his particularly difficult Act Two solo, Where Were You?.
The big joy of this production though is Sophia Bubner as Millie: she is gorgeous, marvellous and excellent, mixing the exact amounts of toughness and sweet femininity required into her character, never putting a foot wrong and exuding a wonderful naturalness.
If it’s sheer fun and happiness you’re after, then hit the Oregon Trail to the Shedley Theatre and catch Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
Reviewed by Brian Godfrey
Venue: Shedley Theatre Playford Civic Centre 10 Playford Boulevard, Elizabeth
Season: 28 March – 12 April 2014
Duration: 2 hours 30 mins (including interval)
Tickets: $25.00 – $30.00
Bookings: Book through the Northern Light Theatre Company’s website or phone 8281 5036 (9am – 9pm); or book through BASS online, phone BASS 131 246
Disclosure: The Director of this production, Fran Edwards, is a arts reviewer for Glam Adelaide.