Cabrillo Music Theatre begins its 2007-8 season with a tunefully winning production of
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.   7Brides47Bros is of course best known as the 1954
MGM musical classic, which starred Howard Keel as Adam, a mountain man in
search of a wife, and Jane Powell as Milly, who accepted his proposal not knowing
that there were six more manly men at the homestead. Debby Boone undertook
the role of Milly in the short lived (opened on Thursday, closed on Sunday) 1982
Broadway production, which has since become a regional theater favorite (recently
staged by Fullerton CLO).  Though perhaps not deserving of a loooooong Broadway
run, 7Brides47Bros is still a far more enjoyable experience than its brief Broadway stay
would indicate, and Cabrillo, blessed with about as fine a leading man and lady as
the show could boast and an ensemble more than up to the challenges of John
Charron’s Michael Kidd inspired choreography, has a winner on its hands.

For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, Milly at first recoils at leaving her
waitressing job for what turns out to be more of the same. As she gets to know
Adam’s brothers, though, she softens towards them, instructing them in the fine art
of “Goin’ Courting.” The boys attend a church social, where each falls for a town
maiden.  Trouble is, there are 10 men for every girl in town, and each of their
beloveds already has a suitor who doesn’t cotton to his girl being seduced by a
scruffy mountain man.  Adam, a fan of the classic Rape (i.e. Abduction) of the
Sabine Women, tells his brother about “them sobbin’ women, who lived in the
Roman days,” and following Plutarch’s example, the boys abduct themselves six
brides-to-be.  Unfortunately, they forgot to bring along a preacher, so the weddings
must wait till the spring (an avalanche having cut them off from civilization till the

Tall, handsome, and gifted with a Broadway-ready voice, Stuart Ambrose is a
sensational Adam, charmingly awkward at romance, and the lovely and supremely
likable Shannon Warne is a marvelously spunky Milly. Ambrose and Warne just came
off nine months touring with Camelot, and the camaraderie they developed during
those months shows in the chemistry displayed on stage.  It’s a real pleasure to see
Ambrose in a starring role (center stage is where he belongs), and in a competition
for best male voice in SoCal musical theater, he’d be a strong contender for first
place. Warne too has just the right voice for musical theater.  She can belt with the
best of them, yet sing as sweetly as anyone could wish, as she does when she lullabies
her newborn in “Glad That You Were Born.”  Plus she’s got that girl-next-door quality
that makes her ideal for Milly (or Julie Jordan or Laurey or Nellie Forbush, just to name
a few roles I’d love to see her play (opposite Ambrose as Billy Biglalow or Curly or Joe
Cable, of course).

There’s really only one other major (albeit supporting) role in 7Brides47Bros and that’s
that of Gideon, the youngest of the brothers.  Here he is played by the adorable
(and talented) Jeffrey Scott Parsons.  Gideon gets to sing the loveliest of the songs
which were added to the stage production (“Love Never Goes Away”), which he
performs with Ambrose and Warne in a beautifully staged scene, the two men on
opposite sides of the stage, and Milly upstairs in her room, spotlights illuminating each.

The other five brothers are Jonathan Sharp, Joe Hall, Drew D’Andrea, Trevor Krahl,
and Andrew Ruesch, triple-threats all of them. (Broadway vet Sharp is remembered
as the most striking of the male dancers in the recent Can-Can and as the hilariously
full-of-himself Russian ballet divo in On Your Toes.)  The six brides (who are less clearly
defined and differentiated in the script than the alphabetically named bros, and
don’t get near the number of songs to sing) are nonetheless a lovely bouquet of
musical theater ingénues: Aubrey Elson, Sarah Girard, Cassie Silva, Marni Zaifert,
Karlee Ferreira, and Andrea Taylor.  The six jealous suitors are Alexander Gomez, Eric
Hoggins, Erik Kline, Jacob Leatherman, Ray Matsamura, and Don Pietranczyk. When
the six brothers, six brides, and six suitors get together for the two big production
numbers (the Act 1 Social Dance and the Act 2 finale Wedding Dance), the
audience is in for some of the most exciting dancing around, including some
sensational leaps (among other balletic moves).  Cutiepie Matsamura, a dancer
since age 12, is a standout here and someone we hope to see again. (This was his
musical theater debut!)

The best songs in the production are the film classics written by Gene DePaul and
Johnny Mercer, which include “Bless Your Beautiful Hide,” “Wonderful Wonderful Day,”
and the aforementioned “Goin’ Courting” and “Sobbin’ Women.” Many of Al Kasha
and Joel Hirschhorn’s Broadway additions seem to be from a different show entirely,
though “Love Never Goes Away” is lovely, as is “Glad That You Were Born.”

Director Lewis Wilkenfeld has skillfully managed his huge cast (there are also 10
townspeople and 8 children in the ensemble), an achievement in and of itself, but
he has also brought out the best in his talented leads and supporting players. John
Charron’s choreography dazzles, especially in the closing number, a Wedding Dance
that just keeps getting better and better and defies any audience not to give it a
standing ovation.  Steven Applegate conducts a fine 17-member orchestra
(something of a rarity these days).  The uncredited costumes and sets are as good as
one would hope to find in a regional production. Jonathan Burke’s sound design is
especially good.

Cabrillo Music Theater President and CEO Carole W. Nussbaum proclaimed in her
introductory speech that Seven Brides for Seven Brothers celebrates “family values.” 
Though I cringed at her use of that politically loaded phrase, I agree 100% that
families (and people like myself who come from families) will be thoroughly
entertained by this tuneful blend of music, dance, and romance, a production
which augers well for the rest of the upcoming CMT season. (Next up, Ain’t
Misbehaving, directed by its Broadway star Ken Page!)

Countrywide Performing Arts Center Box Office, 2100 Thousand Oaks Boulevard,
Thousand Oaks. |

–Steven Stanley
October 28, 2007
Photos: Ed Krieger

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