Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, Torrance Theatre Company’s 10th annual Summer Musical, provides ample proof as to the amount and level of musical theater talent on our local stage scene. Unlike recent 7Brides productions by FCLO Music Theatre and Cabrillo Music Theatre, Torrance’s brides, brothers, and assorted townspeople are all portrayed by non-Equity actors, and though TTC’s production does not reach the bar its predecessors set, the results are nonetheless praiseworthy indeed.

7Brides, like the recent The Wizard Of Oz and Singin’ In The Rain, is that rarity, an original film musical (MGM again!) recreated live on stage.  Though its Broadway run lasted a scant 5 performances in 1982, 7Brides has become a popular regional theater staple and crowd pleaser. Unlike Wizard and Singin’, about half of 7Brides’ songs were added for the stage version (music and lyrics by Joel Hirschhorn). They are tuneful ditties, though none can compare with the Johnny Mercer/Gene dePaul movie originals—Bless Your Beautiful Hide, Wonderful Wonderful Day, Goin’ Courtin’, and Sobbin’ Women.  Great songs those, and just as memorable in 2008 as they were in 1954.

For the few who’ve never seen the MGM classic (starring Howard Keel and Jane Powell), 7Brides tells of mountain man Adam, who woos and weds pretty waitress Milly over the course of a day, then surprises her with six uncouth brothers awaiting her arrival, her cooking, her cleaning, her laundering, etc. etc. etc. The only way to get Adam’s kinfolk out of her long blond hair is to marry them off, and since the town maidens are already spoken for, the bros have only one choice, to kidnap them a la Plutarch’s Sabine Women (aka Sobbin’ Women).

TTC’s Adam is local favorite August Stoten, fresh from recent roles in Jekkyl & Hyde, The Full Monty, and most notably as Jud Frye in Oklahoma.  It’s great to see Stoten in leading man mode, and he makes a fine (and believable) Adam. Opposite Stoten is Daina Baker Bowler, whose sensational soprano belt gives her Milly an added measure of spunk, and makes it clear that Adam has met his match in Milly.

Director/choreographer K.C. Gussler brings his 28 years of theatre/film experience to TTC. In recreating the legendary Michael Kidd’s justly famous original movie choreography, Gussler asks much of his cast, and though the results do not reach the level of the aforementioned CLO productions, they are nonetheless commendable. The boys especially deserve praise for their execution of Kidd’s signature athletic leaps.

Adam’s brothers are convincingly (albeit a bit too broadly) portrayed by Brad Fitzgerald, Kevin Paul, Derek Rubiano, Brad Carnation, Whitney Ackerman, and Tyler Milliron.  Though a couple seem a tad old to be Adam’s younger bros, all do fine work, with Ackerman a dance standout, and Milliron lending his sweet tenor to the lovely “Love Never Goes Away.”  The “suitors” are also called upon to dance a mean jig, and they too deserve a hand: Oscar Gonzalez, Roy Okida, Eric Karnes, Micah Manchan, Guillermo De La Cruz, and Brandon Gomez.

The brides have less to do than the bros, and less to distinguish each from the other, but they are all talented actress/singer/dancers—Lucia Trozzi, Anne René Brashier, Sabrina Olivieri, Ally Van Deuren, Sara Hone, and Anne Arrequin.

Rick Heckman’s musical direction is outstanding, and the TTC orchestra sounds as good as any CLO orchestra I’ve heard. The old west mountain sets are excellent, coming as they do from FCLO, and costume coordinator Dianna Mann’s wardrobe (courtesy of The Theatre Company Upland) is absolutely first rate.  (I love the way the brides and brothers are color coordinated, with red and white belonging to Adam and Milly.)  Daniel Alan Kinser’s sound design is likewise excellent.  Nina E. Klousia’s lighting is very good until, for solos, the stage goes dim and the soloist is barely lit by a too weak spotlight, the only technical glitch in an otherwise first rate design package.

Friday’s audience was thoroughly entertained, and with good reason.  For a production entirely cast with non-union performers, TTC’s Seven Brides For Seven Brothers has much to recommend in it, and its talented performers can be justly proud of the level of professionalism they have achieved here.

(Townspeople: Keven Wisney, Cindy Shields, Craig Proctor, Chuck Chastain, Glenda Wells, Brian Sunshine, Lisa Valerie Morgan, Noelle Rose, Colleen Okida. Children: Tyber Longacre, Katherine Simmons, Andrea Jakubczky, Fiona Okida, Adyen Wisney-Leonard.

Armstrong Theatre, 3330 Civic Center Dr. North, Torrance. 

–Steven Stanley
August 8, 2008

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