We are in the rough frontier country of Oregon in 1850 and farmer Adam Pontipee wants a wife to care for him. He meets Milly and before you can say Jack Robinson they are married and he brings her back to his remote homestead, where unbeknown to her, his six uncouth – and unwed – brothers live. But before long the spirited Milly has managed to transform these bearded backwoodsmen into presentable, well-dressed individuals with table manners to match. However the clan live in an area where there are ten men for every girl so the hatch a plan to kidnap women to marry.
This flimsy skeleton of a plot becomes a platform on which to hang a score full of beautiful songs including the exuberant opener Bless Your Beautiful Hide, as well as Sobbin’ Women, Goin’ Courtin’ and Wonderful Day from the latter part of Hollywood’s golden age of musicals. As a musical it may be as light as a feather, but it has an earnest sincerity, doesn’t send up the story but rather accepts it on its own terms and scrupulously avoids mawkishness. One of the most memorable moments is the harvest social when the brothers, brandishing their choppers do battle with the local townsfolk and execute astonishingly acrobatic leaps, spins and twirls.
Indeed the show is at its best in the stunning dance routines with choreographer Alistair David and designer Paul McKintosh sending the stage into constant flurries of movement and colour.
Laura Pitt-Pulford endows the far-from-modern Milly with the right dogged determination and combines brassy toughness with touching vulnerability, while Alex Gaumond brings a strong voice and commanding presence to the role of Adam, and together they make an endearing leading pair.
The show may have some dubious gender politics but it skilfully manages to steer clear of chauvinism and wins you over with its charm and confidence, breathing fresh life into the musical genre .
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Runs at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre until Saturday 29 August 2015.
Box office: 0844 826 4242
Images: Photo Hugo Glendinning & Feast CreativeLast modified: April 7, 2021