SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS AT THE WOLVERHAMPTON GRAND THEATRE
Theatre Run: Monday 31 March - Saturday 05 April 2014
Performance Reviewed: Tuesday 01 April 2014 (Press Night)
Reviewed by Kyle Pedley
Another seminal musical from yesteryear arrives in the Midlands this week as the UK tour of all-American classic Seven Brides for Seven Brothers toe-taps and foot-stomps its way onto the boards of the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre. The original 1954 movie of the same title remains a somewhat unique and characterful outing in no small way due to Michael Kidd’s inspired and unconventional choreography, which remains impressive to this day, and whilst naturally some of its scope and set piecing has had to be truncated and confined to the practicalities of the stage, fortunately the spirit of Kidd’s vibrant work lives on proudly here. With some stunning, fluid dance and highly energised, technically flawless performances across-the-board, this touring production of Seven Brides proves to be a high-spirited, buoyant and vibrant slice of feel-good musical theatre at its most kinetic, inoffensive and irrepressible.
Much of the narrative is quintessential 1940/50’s movie musical fare - the somewhat roguish Adam Pontipee (Sam Attwater) meets and almost immediately marries the earnest yet spirited (or ‘spunky’ as the show prefers) Milly (Helena Blackman) and she is whisked away to his mountainside cabin home. Once there, she finds herself put upon to maintain a household not only for Adam, but also his six raucous, ill-mannered, rambunctious brothers. The show then gets its Pygmalion on, with Milly training the unruly brothers into being gentlemen who can then go on to win the hearts of the various maidens they come to set their sights and hearts on.
It’s all thoroughly harmless and endearingly simplistic in tone and approach, and whilst the shows narrative progresses with very little in the way of surprise or complication, chances are those going in to watch Seven Brides will be at least marginally familiar with the original film or at the very least be going in expecting a delightfully old-fashioned slice of theatre, which the show certainly delivers. It is also bolstered, as mentioned, by some wonderfully slick and showy choreography that the company deliver with complete panache, supplemented by Elizabeth Dennis’ colourful costume designs that burst to life during the bigger dance numbers and the mostly upbeat, feel-good nature of the shows still extremely enjoyable score.
Sam Attwater and Helena Blackman are solid leads as Adam and Milly, though at times it is hard to shake the feeling that some of the bigger musical moments fall outside of Attwater’s vocal comfort zone. He counters this, however, with a charismatic and strong acting performance that makes his Adam a slightly more nuanced and engaging figure than the more cookie-cutter figure on the page. The brothers themselves prove to be the real stars of the show, and whilst they are painted in fairly broad strokes, they are a delight and command attention practically every time they collectively take to the stage, with all 6 of the talented actors in the group (Jack Evans, Jack Greaves, Pip Hersee, Ross Meagrow, Joe Murphy, Sam Stones) offering personality and humour in abundance. The brides don’t offer quite as much in the way of impact or character, but they are a peppy, spirited bunch and more than hold their own in some of the stunning group dance sequences (a particular highlight being Act I’s social dance).
Amongst the ‘brides’ and ‘brothers’, particular mentions must go to Sam Stones for his fiery, neurotic turn as Frank, the more animated and somewhat unhinged of the Pontipee clan, Georgina Parkinson whose smaller frame belies an exuberant, spritely turn as Alice, and Jack Greaves who is utterly endearing and likable as youngest brother Gideon, as well as offering some genuinely beautiful vocals that are arguably the shows finest. However, as mentioned, all fourteen of the titular characters do great character work, with not a weak link on either side, and it would almost seem cowardly to go through the entire review without drawing attention to the fact that the ladies (and some of the men, of course) will have plenty to enjoy when the impressive physiques of the brothers gets a showing on more than one occasion.
Go in to Seven Brides for Seven Brothers expecting a warm-hearted, well-meaning and consistently feel-good classical musical experience and that is precisely what you shall get. Bar a couple of minor technical issues with lighting and sound that drew attention to themselves now and again (more likely than not teething problems by dint of being a touring production at a new venue), this was a smooth, delightfully entertaining experience from start to finish, one which bursts with charisma and joy and bounces along to wonderful, vintage numbers with dazzling choreography in truly infectious style. It doesn’t re-invent the musical wheel, but nor does it attempt or intend to, so leave your reservations back in Oregon and go courtin’ with the brides and brothers up in the mountains, by way of Wolverhampton, for a toe-tapping, foot-stomping, wonderful, wonderful time.
(A)MUSINGS RATING - * * * * (4 out of 5 Stars)
+ Superb, vibrant choreography
+ The brothers are particularly great fun
+ Suitably feel-good and vibrant
+ Score remains upbeat and enjoyable
- Attwater is a far stronger actor than singer
- Narrative may be a trifle too old-fashioned for some
- Occasional technical issues with sound and lighting
SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS is running at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre from Monday 31 March to Saturday 05 April 2014.
CLICK HERE for more information on the show's run at the Wolverhampton Grand and to book your tickets!
Alternatively, telephone the Box Office directly on 01902 42 92 12.
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