BWW Reviews: La Mirada's SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS is Handsome Entertainment
The freshest revival of a classic in years has opened at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts and this one is most definitely not your grandmother's movie musical. Oh, it has all the elements of its MGM movie musical roots, but under the direction of Glenn Casale, SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS explodes with the kind of high-octane energy and all around pizzazz that hooks a modern audience's attention and never lets it go.
Casale's pacing and use of humor is divine, his casting is a twist on the traditional, and his choreographer Patti Colombo delivers some of the most exciting dance numbers to date on Southern California stages.
Howard Keel and Jane Powell created box office gold for the 1954 film version of SEVEN BRIDES and in Casale's vision it is Kevin Earley (A Tale of Two Cities, Les Misérables) and Beth Malone (Ring of Fire) taking on the roles of mountain man Adam Pontipee and his bride at first sight, Milly. Earley's resonant baritone rings out across the theater at curtain rise and he continues to create a rich vocal presence throughout the show with gorgeous songs like "Bless Your Beautiful Hide" and "Love Never Goes Away." Gone are a few of the harshest lines of the book that can make a modern woman cringe, allowing Earley to instead explore the real struggle of a man whose motivation has always been his family's survival. It especially pays off in "Where Were You?" and then later in "Am I Stubborn" and pair of reprises of "Love Never Goes Away" and "Wonderful Day."
Beth Malone also offers a fresh interpretation of Milly, full of backbone and grounded to the core. This is no blushing ingénue who does as she's told. This is a woman we have no doubt can successfully wrangle seven brothers and Malone is endlessly inventive in the way she inhabits her character and allows her own unique strengths to shape Milly. Plus, she can belt a comedy song like "I Married Seven Brothers" while clearing and resetting an entire stage, and break your heart in a simple melody like "Glad That You Were Born."
Patti Colombo's choreography brilliantly combines a classical dance aesthetic with a testosterone driven athleticism, the effect of which leaves the audience breathless at the sheer amount of energy expended on the stage. Act I's barn dance is a thrilling example of the punch in her creativity, and her staging of "We Gotta Make It Through the Winter" pulls all of the song's subtext out of the lyric and places it front and center with hilarious results. Even more satisfying is the fact that everything is executed to perfection by an ensemble that gives its all, song after song, back flip after back flip, with or without axes in hand.
Musical director Dennis Castellano and his orchestra are in top form for this Golden Age musical full of beautiful, lyrical melodies. The score includes songs from the film version by Johnny Mercer and Gene de Paul, as well as additional songs by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn that were written and added later. Together with Casale's staging, Colombo's choreography, and a cast that knows exactly what it's doing, the music completes SEVEN BRIDES' vibrant rush for the senses.