AISLE SAY San Francisco

SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS

Music by Gene de Paul
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
New Songs by Al Kasha & Joel Hirschhorn
Book by Lawrence Kasha & David Landay
Directed by Evan Pappas
Presented by Broadway By the Bay
San Mateo Performing Arts Center

600 N. Delaware St., San Mateo / (650) 579-5568

Reviewed by Judy Richter

Perhaps one of the greatest strengths of Broadway By the Bay (formerly known as Peninsula Civic Light Opera) over the years has been its dancing. Thanks to always-inventive choreography by Berle Davis, the community-based company always excels in the dancing department. The production of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" is no exception. Smoothly directed by Evan Pappas and choreographed by Davis, it's a real treat for anyone who enjoys terrific dancing. The dancing is at its peak in two numbers, "Social Dance" during the first act and "Wedding Dance," which climaxes the second act.

The show also features strong performances throughout the large cast, especially by Carrie Madsen as Milly and David Miailovich as Adam, even though he may have had some vocal indisposition on opening night. However, Lawrence Kasha and David Landay's book, which is based on the MGM film of the same name, which in turn comes from a Stephen Vincent Benet short story, "The Sobbin' Women," seems outdated in this politically correct era. Set in the rugged Oregon Territory in the 19th century, the story focuses on the seven Pontipee brothers, backwoodsmen with a ranch high in the mountains and with manners low on the nicety scale. Adam, the oldest brother, decides they need a woman to take care of them, so he goes to town determined to woo and wed in only a few hours. He meets Milly, the feisty waitress at the town's only eatery (it's not nice enough to be called a diner or restaurant) and persuades her to marry him practically on the spot. They're duly joined by the parson and return to his ranch, where she meets the other six brothers, a brawling, crude bunch. Dismayed but undaunted, she cleans them up and teaches them enough manners and dance steps to make them presentable for the church social, where they promptly fall for six eligible young women.

After they return to the ranch, Adam, inspired by reading about the Romans and the Sabine women, persuades them to kidnap and marry the women. They manage the kidnap part but forget about the parson, so when they return, Milly makes the brothers bunk in the barn while she and the women stay in the house. Disconcerted, Adam heads for the high country, where he spends the winter. When his youngest brother, Gideon (Justin Weatherby, an excellent tenor), tries to convince him to return, Adam sings "A Woman Ought to Know Her Place." All eventually turns out well for everyone, but the show still feels sexist.

Nevertheless, the dances, songs and performances make up for that shortcoming. Besides Weatherby, the other brothers are played by Stephen Perez, Kevin Stanford, Larry Quinto, Matthew Ferretti and Paul Ziller. Their girlfriends are played by Kendall Sinclair, Liz Blair, Hilary McQuaide, Erin Cole, Angela Fuller and Dominique Bonino. The townspeople, including the children, also are fine. The orchestra, led by musical director Rick Reynolds, is quite good, better than BBB sometimes fields. Vocal direction is by Cłęsar Cancino. Lighting is by Michael Ramsaur. The colorful costumes are from American Musical Theatre of San Jose. The program doesn't credit the rented sets.

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