BWW Reviews: Stars of MSMT's SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS Reimagine Their Roles

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BWW Reviews: Stars of MSMT's SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS Reimagine Their Roles

"What I love that Patti [Colombo] is doing with this show is that she is not making it a sepia-toned romance," declares Jarid Faubel, the actor who portrays Adam Pontipee in Maine State Music Theatre's new production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, directed and choreographed by Patti Colombo, which opens its three-week run July 17th.

His co-star, Heidi Kettenring, concurs: "Millie is one of the most challenging musical roles I have done of late. I am basing her character on a line early in the play where she says that she buried her parents on the Oregon Trail and finished the trek herself. She is feminine, but strong enough to have made that journey alone."

Both Kettenring and Faubel are undertaking these roles for the first time in Colombo's latest reprise of this joyous 1954 movie musical with book by David Landay and Lawrence Kasha, and score and lyrics by Gene de Paul, Al Kasha, Joel Hirschhorn, and Johnny Mercer. By choice neither actor has seen the beloved movie with Jane Powell and Howard Keel. Faubel says he plans to see it after the MSMT run. "Howard Keel is so iconic that the last thing I want is to be unduly influenced by someone else's solution to telling a story. I am not he so it is to my benefit to come in with fresh eyes and viewpoint and give myself over to the world Patti has created. This way I don't have to worry about living up to an image. With Patti's help we get to create our own world and tell our own story."

heidi kettenringKettenring says that her Millie will have more grit - "not the lovely, sweet, feminine innocence I am told Jane Powell had. I play a woman who makes a new life for herself on her own, and when she agrees to go to Adam's cabin, it is not necessarily for love, but for a hardworking, peaceful existence."

Both Kettenring and Faubel feel confident that the MSMT production gives a new substance to the show and to their characters. Asked if the show feels at all "dated" or naïve, Kettenring replies that while Seven Brides " does belong to the historical period in which it happened and the context in whch it was written, and while it may have some lines which make today's audiences grimace," she insists that she enjoys "doing pieces like this one that are 'troubled' because of their so-called dated nature. I like the challenge of taking the material seriously and having audiences do the same."

Both leads are convinced that MSMT's staging will do just that! Faubel says that he has been struck by the thought that Adam's point of view is not based on misogyny or sexism, but on the fact that he doesn't know any better. Through Millie, the audience gets to experience Adam's and his brothers' growing pains - their learning what it is to treat a woman properly. Adam talks about having a woman behind her man, but the notion of a woman beside her man as an equal partner - that is an important, not naïve thought, and we get to see this idea succeed in the course of the play."

"Millie has to learn some lessons as well," Kettenring continues. 'She has to learn who she and Adam are and how they can build a relationship that has give and take. Like the townsfolk, she has to understand that it is easy to pass judgment if you don't know the actual story of why somebody does what he does."

Kettenring, who has an extensive musical theatre and straight drama resume, finds the role demanding because of "the marathon of singing, dancing, and scene work. It has some intense, long book scenes and then the dancing! I don't call myself a dancer - {Faubel says the same about himself) - so I have to work extra hard. Sometimes it is scary, but always thrilling."

BWW Reviews: Stars of MSMT's SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS Reimagine Their RolesFaubel also finds that the scene work is compelling and the emotional journey for the two actors is "about negotiation here and discord there until Adam and Millie finally reach an agreement together. What is that contract? Perhaps excitement, reverie, or romance. Whatever it is, it is great storytelling!"

And, indeed, storytelling is what made Jarid Faubel fall in love with theatre in the first place. A graduate of Carnegie Mellon's acting program with a vocal minor, Faubel had first contemplated pursuing his passion for political philosophy. He says that his greatest satisfaction in being an actor is to "be able to tell a story and take people on a journey. It makes me feel I have accomplished something if I can make people laugh, cry, or think, if I can offer a tale which may have a lesson or be pure entertainment or a bit of both - which, I think, is what Seven Brides might do."

Faubel recalls his breakthrough not long after graduation playing Rudge in The History Boys in Pittsburgh. "I got my Equity card, and I was working with these amazing professional actors who treated me as a compatriot. I felt I belonged."

After The History Boys, he made his off Broadway debut and has continued to work in straight plays, musicals such as Camelot, Oklahoma, and Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, television and film, including several action movies (one with Tom Cruise). "I have been fortunate to be able to bounce around a bit. It is important to me to keep the balance. That jostles me not to rest of tell the same story over and over again. It's like a palette cleanser. I like going from a musical to a drama. I love being the villain in one show and somebody's best friend in another."

Faubel finds the technical demands of television and film acting not unlike the physical specificity required in musical theatre. "There is a challenge to be earnest, genuine, and connected to the actor across from you while being cognizant that you have to be on a certain mark or count."

After Seven Brides he hopes to head to North Carolina to play Miles Gloriosus in Forum. And as for a future wish list, he would love to play Javert and Iago. "Javert is not a villain, but a man who lives by the letter of a black and white code of law. Iago is someone who can give you justifications for everything he does; he is scary, but would be great fun to play."

Just as it is variety which fulfills Faubel and stimulates his creativity, so, too, does Heidi Kettenring thrive on performing a wide range of theatrical roles. She has run the gamut from contemporary to classical plays, among them Little Women, Midsummer Night's Dream, Importance of Being Earnest, and School for Lies, as well as creating plum roles in musicals such as Carousel, Brigadoon, Pajama Game, Wicked, and Hairspray, not to mention Guys and Dolls, for which she won an After Dark Award, and Funny Girl, which garnered her a Jeff nomination. Playing Fanny Brice was a watershed for the actress. "Not only was my name above the title, but I learned the responsibility that comes with that and the responsibility to release."

Kettenring studied speech and theatre at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, where she received a solid foundation in the classics and studied voice with Kurt Hansen (and later with Tom Murray). She is based in Chicago with her actor husband, David Girolomo, whom she met there sixteen years ago at the Drury Lane Theatre where they were both in the cast of Follies. She praises the rich cultural climate of Second City and the many opportunities to work as an actor. When she leaves MSMT, her year there is virtually all booked: she will star as Anna in The King and I at the Marriott Lincolnshire and then in January in the Diary of Anne Frank at Chicago Writers Theatre.

She says she negotiates the different theatrical styles by grounding her work in the text: "I am an actor who always looks first at the words on the page. Even when I sing, it is the text which gives me the energy and emotion to sing correctly. That is not to say I do not sometimes have to pull technique out. But if I am honest in portraying what the author is telling me, then it doesn't matter the period or the style."

BWW Reviews: Stars of MSMT's SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS Reimagine Their RolesThat special kind of honesty is what both stars are striving to bring to this production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. While they both agree that Seven Brides is a hugely entertaining, thrilling dance show - a heartwarming slice of Americana - they both hope the audience will walk away with something else as well. For Jarid Faubel it is to have the audience "think about how wonderful their own relationships with their significant others are." He hopes Adam and Millie's story will remind them that "it is really special when you find someone who is your match, who will stand beside you. The story that Patti Colombo and we are telling is one that has a grounded reality."

"This Seven Brides for Seven Brothers has a weight to it," Heidi Kettenring agrees. "It is rooted in as much reality as possible, given the story. Our job as actors is to believe that story and tell the truth so that the audience can take this truth away with them."

Photos Courtesy of Maine State Music Theatre

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Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold Born and raised in the metropolitan New York area, Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold took her degrees at Sarah Lawrence College and Fairleigh Dickinson University. She began her career as a teacher and arts administrator before becoming a journalist, critic, and author. In addition to contributing to Broadway World, her theatre, film, music and visual arts reviews and features have appeared in Fanfare Magazine, Scene 4 Magazine, Talkin’ Broadway, Opera News, Gramophone, Opéra International, Opera, Music Magazine, Beaux Arts, and The Crisis, and her byline has headed numerous program essays and record liner notes. She also authors the blog, Stage, Screen, and Song (www.stagescreensong.wordpress.com). Among her scholarly works, the best known is We Need A Hero! Heldentenors from Wagner’s Time to the Present: A Critical History. She helped to create several television projects, serving as associate producer and content consultant/writer, among them I Hear America Singing for WNET/PBS and Voices of the Heart: Stephen Fosterfor German television. Her first novel, Raising Rufus: A Maine Love Story appeared in 2010. Her screenplay version of the book was the 2011 Grand Prize Winner at the Rhode Island International Film Festival. She is also the author of a second novel, The Whaler's bride, and a collection of short stories, BOOKENDS Stories of Love, Loss, and Renewal. Ms. Verdino-Süllwold now makes her home in Brunswick, Maine.


 
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