BWW Review: Ammons, Krebs Lead Entertaining SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS at Springhouse
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is Mighty Entertaining, Thanks to Paula K. Parker’s Talented Cast
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, the 1982 stage musical borne of the 1954 film treatment based on a story by Stephen Vincent Benet, doesn't hold up as well in 2019 as many classic musical theater titles - what with its sexist storyline, ersatz score that longs to remind us of something by Rodgers and Hammerstein, and its meandering plot - but make no mistake about it: The production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, now onstage through this weekend at Smyrna's Springhouse Theatre Company is mighty entertaining, thanks to Paula K. Parker's talented cast who bring the show to life with vigor and commitment.
Based on Benet's short story "The Sobbin' Women" (which, in turn, is inspired by "The Rape of The Sabine Women" from Roman mythology), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers moves the action to 1850s Oregon, where a family full of handsome, strapping brothers - every one of them an iconic "mountain man" - go down in the valley to find young women to marry after the apparent successful pairing of oldest brother Adam Pontipee, who meets and weds pretty and hard-working Milly during one afternoon spent in town to gather provisions for the impending season. After Milly schools her brothers-in-law on the niceties of courtship, the family head back into town for a social during which each one becomes smitten with a townie and the plot unfolds...
With a winning cast, led by the handsome and charming Callum Ammons as Adam and the lovely and charismatic Alyssa Krebs as Milly, director Parker - along with choreographer Elizabeth Krebs (who does double-duty as bride-to-be Ruth), music director Nate Paul and the rest of the creative team, which includes costumer Shanda Perkins (whose period costumes are lovely), set designer Ian Stewart and lighting designer Jonathan Beaty, with special commendation to quilt designer Casey Sullivan, for her unique contributions to the production's overall design aesthetic - bring the somewhat hoary and dated tale to life with focus and commitment. Thanks to their efforts, it's easy to suspend disbelief and to enjoy the production despite the script's shortcomings.
In fact, the cast is so likable and the action moves along at a nice enough clip that you'll likely be caught up in the onstage shenanigans from the very first moments during which Ammons' Adam appears in the audience to sing the first notes of "Bless Your Beautiful Hide," one of the holdover tunes from the original film. By the time you're introduced to the rest of the Pontipee tribe and the denizens of the town, you'll be so enamored of them all that you're more than willing to join them on their misadventures.
Ammons, who's been a stalwart supporting player in numerous local musical productions, is finally given the opportunity to shine in his first leading role and he is effectively paired with Alyssa Krebs as his scene partner. Together, they create a palpable sense of young love flourishing among the towering timbers of the Oregon mountains and as the plot progresses, their performances are enriched by their strong voices. Krebs is particularly impressive, showing off a wide range of emotion as Milly grows up right before our very eyes, from the moment in which she is swept off her feet by Ammons right up to the final scenes in which love triumphs.
The other six brides - delightfully played by Destiny Urie, Elizabeth Krebs, Aurora Boe, RileyGrace Abbott, Isabella Kearney and Kathleen Caldwell - prove their onstage mettle thanks to Elizabeth Krebs' choreography, and exuding charm thanks to Parker's direction.
Adam's passel of younger brothers - portrayed by Chris Rowell (terrific as brother Benjamin), Nathan Krebs (Alyssa's brother and Elizabeth's husband is a perfectly laconic brother Caleb), Wil Hansen and Benjamin Hansen (Ammons' real-life brothers, who very nearly steal the show with impeccable comic turns as brothers Daniel and Ephraim), William Hearn (with his matinee idol good looks, he is impressively paired with Kearney to create an ideal dancing couple) and Jack Forte (as youngest brother Gideon, he delivers the swagger in a heartfelt role) - are given more to do in Lawrence Kasha and David Landay's script than their female counterparts and they rise to the occasion to create memorable portraits of randy, if rather respectful, young men yearning to sow their wild oats. The Pontipee brothers are brought vividly to life by the raucous performances of the sextet of actors, who display good comic timing and some rather impressive dancing skills, providing the perfect conduits for Elizabeth Krebs' joyous choreography.
Music director Paul conducts his eight-person orchestra (including Joseph Walker, Dale Herr, Tom D'Angelo, Raymond Ridley, Kelly Hagan, Logan Scarbrough, Daniel Johnson and Colton Gibbs) with skill and professionalism and they bring the score (the original film score included music by Gene DePaul, with lyrics by Johnny Mercer and the stage score is supplemented by new tunes by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn) to life with aplomb.
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Book by Lawrence Kasha and David Landay. Lyrics by Johnny Mercer. Music by Gene DePaul. New songs by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn. Directed by Paula K. Parker. Musical direction by Nate Paul. Choreography by Elizabeth Krebs. Presented by Springhouse Theatre Company, Smyrna. Through October 6. For details, go to www.springhousetheatre.com or call (615) 852-8499. Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes (with one 15-minute intermission).
photos by Kenn Stilger for Heavenly Perspective Photography