Photo Flash: Kick Off Your Boots with Rider University's SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS, 4/24-28
By Chrissy Hartzell
Jump on the bandwagon and join in on the rip-roarin'and rootin'-tootin' fun as Rider University's Westminster College of the Arts presents 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers', running April 24-28 in the Bart Luedeke Center Theater on the main campus of Rider University in Lawrenceville, N.J.
'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers' is adapted from the original 1954 MGM musical film with music by Saul Chaplin and Gene de Paul and lyrics by Johnny Mercer. The stage musical's book is by Lawrence Kasha and David Landay with additional songs for the stage by Al Kasha and Joel Hirshhorn. The stage adaptation originally appeared on Broadway at the Alvin Theatre in 1982, with follow-up runs on the West End in 1985 and recent regional revivals including Goodspeed Opera House, Houston Theatre Under the Stars, Paper Mill Playhouse, North Shore Music Theatre, and Atlanta Theatre of the Stars.
We begin on the Oregon Trail as it leads us straight to an 1850's small town where backwoodsman Adam Pontipee (Eddie Brandt) scopes out the frontier to find a domestic dame to take back to the mountains. There we meet the spunky and sassy Milly (Samantha Penick), and after a short encounter, the two are set to be wed. Milly comes home with Adam to find that he is one of seven brothers in one household: a fact that Milly learns she must acquaint herself with. With her spunk and keen sense of etiquette, Milly must tame these barnyard boys to become mannerly men whom are on the prowl to find brides of their own. With beautiful and synchronized dances and wacky, hilarious chase scenes, the seven brothers, with the help of Milly, discover that there's so much more beyond the lumberjack's love of logs. Love will allow seven brides to eventually find these seven brothers. But will these brothers make it past the always-intruding obstacles of love, including an angry mob full of pitchforks? 'Seven Brides' holds an array of catchy and unforgettable songs, including "Sobbin' Women", "Goin' Courtin'", and "Bless Your Beautiful Hide".
With beautiful sequences of ballet for the brides and athletic dances filled with tricks for the brothers, 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers' will drop your jaw and astonish your eyes. One extraordinary surprise after another fills the dance and action segments, leaving not one moment dull. Impressive dancing complements the impressive vocals led by the musical direction of Nathan Hurwitz and the leading voices of Eddie Brandt and Samantha Penick. After a couple hours out on the frontier of Oregon, you will surely leave 'Seven Brides' with a bright and gleaming smile.
Dance, being an integral part of the musical, never takes a break from stealing the spotlight. In nearly every scene, the audience gets a hefty dose of glorious lifts, impressive flips, and intricate partnering. Student choreographer, freshman musical theatre major Maria Garvey, has worked closely with choreographer Robin Lewis throughout the rehearsal process and knows first-hand the trials of the athletic and acrobatic choreography.
"I had to know all of the choreography for every single part in the show so it was a big challenge." She also states the difficulty of the elaborate partnering tricks, but also mentions how the cast flawlessly nails every step. She adds, "I have learned how to work side by side with my teachers and to earn the respect from my peers."
As a freshman musical theatre major, Garvey sees 'Seven Brides' as a crucial opportunity to not only work closer with her dancing peers, but an opportunity to work closely with the experienced and professional team that includes Nathan Hurwitz as director and musical director and Robin Lewis as director and choreographer. Garvey had to learn all of the complex choreography before the rehearsal process alongside Lewis, giving the freshman a hefty responsibility of awareness of detail for each dance.
Nathan Hurwitz, co-director and musical director, is a veteran of the stage in every sense. As musical director and conductor, his Broadway credits include Blood Brothers, Dream, and The Phantom of the Opera. His tour credits include Phantom, West Side Story, The Best of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Blood Brothers, Annie, The Sound of Music, The Who's Tommy, Company, Leader of the Pack, Nunsense, and Funny Girl. Recently, Hurwitz has directed many shows regionally and at universities across the country, including Lucky Stiff and The World Goes Round at Syracuse University.
Robin Lewis, co-director and choreographer, hails as a Broadway veteran as well. His credits include Fosse, Beauty and the Beast, A Christmas Carol at Madison Square Garden and the first national tours of Victor/Victoria and The Producers. Other national tours includes A Chorus Line, Hello Dolly, Beauty and the Beast and special performances at The Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall. His choreographic work includes the movie Bernie (2011) starring Shirley MacLaine and Jack Black. He has also choreographed productions of The Music Man, Damn Yankees, Big River, and Evita.
Garvey believes that crowds young and old can surely get a kick out of this fun-loving, warm-hearted show. Expect high kicks, high flips, and definitely some high energy. She adds, "The audience should expect to be wowed."
The cast of 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers' includes Eddie Brandt as Adam Pontipee and Samantha Penick as Milly, alongside freshman Matthew Fairlee as Gideon. The show features Cody Cooley, Kevin Corkum, Josh Lawson, Jimmy McEvoy, Colby Dezelick, Ashten Banister, Kiley Hinkle, Heather Romano, Marissa Girgus, Nicole Sheehan, Lilli Babb, Nick Cox, Caleb Funk, Conor Fallon, Travis Przybylski, Andres Feliz, Jeffrey Walter, Annie Uhl, Chrissy Cody, Rajeer Alford, Alexander Kass, Sean Magnacca, Meredith Bleemer, Jemma Stember-Young, Allie Patton (swing), Connor Bolton (swing) and Elizabeth Ritacco (understudy for Milly).
'Seven Brides' has a set design by Todd Dellinger and lighting design by Todd Lloyd.
'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers' runs April 24 through April 28 with a preview performance on the 24th at 7:30 p.m. followed by performances at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday the 25th and Friday the 26th, with additional performances on Saturday, April 27 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., as well as Sunday, April 28 at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. Tickets can be purchased at the door, by calling 609-896-7775, or by purchasing online at www.rider.edu/arts.
For more information on Westminster College of the Arts of Rider University, visit www.rider.edu/wca.
Photo credit: Todd Delinger and Robin Lewis