‘Bless your beautiful hide, wherever you may be / We ain’t met yet, but I’m a willin’ to bet / You’re the gal for me…’ Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is distinctly so politically incorrect, there’s a part of me that’s a bit surprised there aren’t feminists with placards outside protesting that such a respectable establishment as the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre would dare put on such a show. Perhaps the inclement (or at least unpredictable) weather put them off. Six of the seven said brides are kidnapped, and the seventh (well, the first one, actually) was simply given an offer she couldn’t refuse. Apparently that was feasible in 1850s rural Oregon.
Interestingly, the musical theatre production is based on an earlier motion picture – and not the other way round – and the movie is itself based on The Sobbin’ Women, a 1937 book by Stephen Vincent Benét. To trace the story further back, that book is based on a Roman folklore story about the Sabines, who were apparently abducted to populate the expanding Roman Empire.
Laura Pitt-Pulford steals the show in a frankly incomparable performance as Milly, a young lady from downtown who accepts a marriage proposal from Adam Pontipee (Alex Gaumond) within five minutes of them meeting for the very first time. This is as astonishing as it sounds, and topical by chance, given recent criticism of a Channel 4 television show called Married at First Sight. Single-handedly, she transforms Adam’s six younger brothers from backward yobs to suave, charming, clean shaven and well-groomed gentlemen. Both Gaumond and Pitt-Pulford are more than likeable in their leading roles – divine even.
We get what people who have known Seven Brides for Seven Brothers for decades expect out of a good production. They go courtin’ (sic). Later, the dancing is all there. Jumps! Spins! Cartwheels! They build barns but it all goes awry and there’s a great big fight. This show’s rendition of We Gotta Make It Through The Winter is heartbreaking, with the lads in separate sleeping quarters from the kidnapped ladies on Milly’s orders (there shall be no living in sin in this Christian household, thank you very much). Audible oohs and aahs from the audience. It is practically impossible not to feel for them.
The cast evidently enjoys themselves and there is such good chemistry between them all that any peculiarities in the libretto are more than forgiven in this mesmerising display of song and dance. No weak links to report. I was impressed by Sam O’Rourke’s Gideon, whose character displayed perhaps more than any other the vulnerability and naivety of these young men, combined with hilarity in his approach to life and more specifically the courting of his beloved Alice (Bethany Huckle).
This is a faithful rendering and is definitely one for lovers of musical theatre to enjoy wholeheartedly. This show is infectious, uplifting and moving. Quite a lot of productions of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers are in the world of amateur dramatics, and while I don’t wish to knock these very worthy productions, here’s a chance to experience it with the very best of professional actors combined with an impeccable orchestra. So, musical aficionados: book now if you haven’t already.
I’m so moved by this production that I’m going back for another round next week: and I rarely return to shows in the same season. Yes, it’s fluffy and light. Sit back and let it wash over you (quite literally if you happen to attend a rainy performance). And don’t miss the creative yet simple way in which an avalanche is dramatically created. I would have liked to have stretched to seven stars for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers – it really is that outstanding.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Leading the cast is Alex Gaumond as Adam and Laura Pitt-Pulford as Mill. The full cast of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers includes Rosanna Bates, David Burrows, Angela Caesar, Matthew Clark, Leon Cooke, Eammon Cox, Jacob Fisher, Charlene Ford, Steve Fortune, Trevor Michael Georges, Bob Harms, Bethany Huckle, Frankie Jenna, James Leece, Phillip Marriot, Dylan Mason, Natasha Mould, Peter Nash, Sam O’Rourke, Ryan Pidgen, Adam Rhys-Charles, Karli Vale, Annie Wensak, Ed White and Emma Woods.
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is directed by Rachel Kavanaugh who reunites the creative team behind Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre’s award-winning production of The Sound of Music.
Seven Brides For Seven Brothers at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
Evenings: Monday to Saturday 7.45pm
Matinees: Thursday and Saturday 2.15pm
Saturday 25th July 2015