The 1954 MGM musical movie hit Seven Brides For Seven Brothers comes to life in-the-round at Glendale Centre Theatre in a production that provides old-fashioned G-rated family entertainment under Robert Marra’s assured direction.

Though its Broadway run lasted a scant five performances in 1982, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers has since gone on to become a popular regional theater staple and crowd pleaser. In addition to the movie’s half-dozen or so Johnny Mercer/Gene DePaul classics, which include “Bless Your Beautiful Hide,” “Wonderful Wonderful Day,” “Goin’ Courtin’,” and “Sobbin’ Women,” the stage adaptation adds another half dozen by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn, tuneful though less memorable ditties including the lovely “Love Never Goes Away” and “Glad that You Were Born.”

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers The Movie starred Howard Keel as Adam, a mountain man with six frisky brothers, and Jane Powell as Milly, the young woman he marries after a whirlwind courtship of all but a few hours. Milly does her darndest to teach his seven bros manners, but impatient students that they are, the boys end up rustling the girls of their dreams as if they were cattle. Though the boys do eventually end up regretting their misogyny, their initial ‘50s attitudes (18-or-1950s, take your pick) make Seven Brides For Seven Brothers’ plotline a bit of a hard sell in 2011, though its good nature goes a long way towards making up for this.

Still, if Seven Brides For Seven Brothers succeeds as a stage musical, it’s mainlythanks to some of the liveliest dance numbers ever seen in a Hollywood movie musical or on the Broadway stage for that matter, choreographed on celluloid by the legendary Michael Kidd and at GCT by local legend Lee Martino.

Since Seven Brides For Seven Brothers is essentially a two-character musical, with all but youngest brother Gideon reduced to a line here or there and plenty of footwork, it’s essential to cast the best possible duo as Adam and Milly. Thankfully, Glendale Centre Theatre has come up with a terrific couple to play the two leads, Jason W. Webb and Jennifer J. Webb, married in real life with their own brood of five young Webbs at home.

Webb has, over the past few years, accumulated a long list of L.A. area leading man credits, including his Scenie-winning performance last year in CLOSBC’s She Loves Me.  The role of Adam fits the Brigham Young University grad to a T. Not only does Webb look the part, he sings gorgeously and gives Adam enough charm and good nature for us to forgive him his Neanderthal attitudes. Stage appearances by fellow BYU alumna Jennifer have been limited over the past dozen years for obvious reasons, so it’s a rare pleasure to see her sharing the stage with her real-life husband, with whom no stage chemistry need be invented. Jennifer makes for a spunky yet feminine Milly, petite in stature but more than able to give Adam as good as she gets. It’s a particular pleasure to hear the Webbs’ voices joined in “Love Never Goes Away” and the reprise of “Wonderfu, Wonderful Day.”

Georgia-born L.A. newcomer Grant Jordan has just what it takes to play Gideon—impish youngest-brother cuteness and a crystal-clear tenor for “Love Never Goes Away” and the “A Woman Ought To Know Her Place” reprise.

As for the rest—the five middle brothers, the six young brides, and a sextet of suitors, they are each and every one a bona fide triple threat, turning the show’s dance sequences into major show-stoppers. They are Andrew Allen (Ephraim), Andrew Blake Ames (Frank), Fernando Duran (Daniel), Brandon Heitkamp (Caleb), and Paul Reid (Benjamin); Holly Childers (Dorcas), Emily Coddington (Alice), Ashley Mackel (Liza), Caroline Montes (Martha), Lindsey Rei (Ruth) and Libby Snyder (Sarah); and John Paul Batista (Zeke), Genaro Gutierrez (Joel), Robert Hartson (Carl), Kevin Holmquist (Luke), Raymond Matsamura (Jeb), and Steven Weber (Matt). Together, these dozen and a half young troupers make Act One’s “Social Dance,” Act Two’s “Spring Dance,” and the grand finale “Wedding Dance” three of the most energized production numbers of the year, with Martino’s dance moves expertly tailored to the needs of theater in the round.

Osa Danam (Mrs. Perkins), Korey Simeone (Mr. Perkins), and Don Woodruff (Preacher) complete the cast in adult roles.

Music director Steven Applegate gets the entire cast singing melodiously to prerecorded tracks, though these sound considerably less rich and more “canned” than has been this reviewer’s impression of recent GCT musical soundtracks. Sound designer Nathan J. Milisavljevich does a capable job of mixing live vocals and recorded tracks. Angela Wood of Glendale Costumes once again outdoes herself with the cast’s colorful (and color coordinated) mid-19th Century western garb. Uncredited in-the-round scenery and lighting are both first rate.  Caitlin Barbieri is stage manager.

If Seven Brides For Seven Brothers doesn’t succeed as fully as some other recent Glendale Centre Theatre musicals, it’s more because of the material itself than through any weaknesses on the part of the all-around strong cast. Yes, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers may come across as Oklahoma!’s less inspired second cousin, but with a pair of first-rate leads and one of the most energetic and talented ensembles around, there are far less pleasant ways of spending an evening than with these seven lusty brothers and their seven blushing brides.

Glendale Centre Theatre, 324 N. Orange St., Glendale.

–Steven Stanley
October 5, 2011
Photos: Tim Dietlein

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