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Wednesday, 03 August 2011 12:53

Gotta dance

Written by Bob Wilcox
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The Details

  • Director: Mark Schneider
  • Dates: August 1 - 7, 2011

I'm a little puzzled by the continuing popularity of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at The Muny. It's one of the shows that pops up regularly. But it's hardly in the Rodgers and Hammerstein tradition of a memorable score and a story that involves you in sympathetic characters.

The book by Lawrence Kasha and David Landay adapts the movie that adapted a short story set in the Oregon mountains in the 1850s. The courtship between mountain man Adam and town woman Millie wraps up in the blink of an eye, and the focus shifts to Adam's six brothers, their longing to get married, and the six town women they kidnap, leading to various complications and their resolution.

That's too many people for us to get close to any one of them in the two hours' traffic of our stage (and this is the rare Muny show that, for the second week in a row, clocks in almost at the two hour mark). Nor do either the book or the production's light touch encourage us to take any of this very seriously, not even the cracks that develop in Millie and Adam's hasty marriage.

I find a couple of the songs, "Bless Your Beautiful Hide" and "Goin' Courtin,'" tend to stay with me after the final curtain, and I've always enjoyed "Lonesome Polecat" as an amusing mock lament in the vein of the Gershwins' "I'm Bidin' My Time." But the score, with lyrics by Johnny Mercer and music by Gene de Paul and added songs by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn, serves the production well without serving up a string of hits.

What Seven Brides for Seven Brothers does have, and the reason, I suspect, that Muny audiences like it, is dancing, lots of spectacular, athletic dancing – dancing that finds room to spread out on that huge Muny stage. Pepper Clyde choreographed the current production, adding welcome fresh touches to references to Michael Kidd's movie dances, a little Agnes de Mille influence, and exuberant Irish step dancing to celebrate the wedding of the brothers and their brides. The young dancers in the company easily meet the challenges.

Mark Schneider directed the story clearly and cleanly. James Clow, always welcome, is back again as Adam. And Jenny Powers, who can fill the Muny with her voice and stage presence, gives Millie the dominant personality she needs to survive the troubles she marries into.

Steven Gilliam's scenic design opens the stage for the big dance numbers in order to mix the usual painted flats with welcome vistas of the trees and bushes that rim that stage. Jason Krueger's sound design balances the cast's voices with the orchestra under musical director Michael Horsley. F. Mitchell Dana, as usual, designed the lighting, and Kansas City Costume, as usual, the costumes.

You may not be deeply moved by The Muny's Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, but you can get a thrill and a lift from the dancing.

Additional Info

  • Director: Mark Schneider
  • Dates: August 1 - 7, 2011

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