Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (tour - Wimbledon)
This new version of the musical makes up for its slight storyline with "dynamic choreography", says Carole Gordon.
Based on a short story, The Sobbin' Women, which itself was a re-imagining of the Roman legend of the rape of the Sabine women, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was a highly successful MGM movie in the 1950s before being brought to the stage.
The title encapsulates the entire, rather slight, plot. A family of testosterone-fuelled backwoodsmen brothers are anxious to marry. Having met and married the feisty Milly (Helena Blackman) within a couple of hours of meeting her in town, the oldest brother, Adam (Sam Attwater) takes her home, where she realises she is expected to skivvy for the seven brothers. Milly's not having any of their boorish behaviour and determines to introduce the brothers to civilised ways and etiquette, and, along the way, to the six women who will eventually become their brides.
Helena Blackman (best-known as having been runner-up in the BBC's How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?) does a fine job as Milly, with just the right balance of strength and vulnerability and a note-perfect voice. Sam Attwater swaggers and postures as Adam, but seems to struggle somewhat with the songs and doesn't entirely convince as an uncivilised redneck who would encourage his brothers to kidnap the women if that's the only way to get themselves a wife.
The ensemble dancing of the brothers, brides and townsfolk is marvellous, and they make the most of Patti Colombo's dynamic choreography, which drives the whole piece. Unfortunately, where the dance numbers lift the show, it ultimately suffers from the lack of light and shade in many of the performances. The first half dialogue is mostly shouted and the cackling and giggling of the girls/brides-to-be quickly becomes tiresome.
The set design by Anna Louizos gives a great feeling of the isolation of the backwoods region of Oregon in the 1850s, though some slow scene changes require the on-stage fiddlers to distract the audience while sets slide on and off.
It's rootin' tootin' rollicking fun with terrific, athletically energetic dancing and well-sung, if largely unmemorable, songs. Enjoy the singing and dancing, ignore the limp (and in these politically correct days, somewhat questionable) storyline and you'll have a great evening.