Scenie-winning choreographer Janet Renslow wears both director’s hat and choreographer’s chapeau this time round as Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theater presents a terrific revival of Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, the Broadway adaptation of the 1954 MGM musical movie hit.

Wedding Time Though its run on the Great White Way was a scant five performances back 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.”

Any Hollywood buff will tell you that Seven Brides for Seven Brothers The Movie starred Howard Keel as Adam Pontipee, a mountain man with six frisky brothers, and Jane Powell as Milly, the young woman he marries after a whirlwind courtship of but a few hours.

Millie and Brothers Though Milly recoils at having left her waitressing job for more of the same, once she has gotten to know Adam’s brothers, she finds herself softening towards them, and even goes so far as to instruct them in the fine art of “Goin’ Courting.”

The boys then attend a church social, where each falls for a town maiden. Trouble is, there are ten 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.

That’s when Adam, a fan of the classic Rape (i.e. Abduction) Of The Sabine Women, chimes in, telling his brothers about “them sobbin’ women, who lived in the Roman days,” and before long, his impatient siblings have followed Plutarch’s example by rustling the girls of their dreams as if they were cattle. Unfortunately, they’ve forgotten to bring along a preacher, so the weddings must wait till the spring (an avalanche having cut them off from civilization till the thaw).

1375114_10201212346805375_1045857014_n Along the way, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers features 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 Candlelight by two-time Best Choreography Scenie winner Renslow, who keeps outdoing herself in each new Candlelight show.

Brides and Brothers Suitors

And production numbers like “Wonderful, Wonderful Day,” “Goin’ Courtin’,” “Spring Dance,” and “Wedding Dance” feature plenty of dancing indeed. This is especially true for “The Social,” which pits brothers against suitors for the hands of their would-be brides in an ever more athletic, energetic, acrobatic musical sequence that proves that if not every ensemble member came into Seven Brides For Seven Brothers a dancer, they most certainly have become that with Renslow bringing out the best in each and every one.

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.

Adam and Millie

Needless to say, in Sam Zeller and Stacy Huntington, Renslow has struck gold.

Zeller fans who know him from playing heavies like Oklahoma!’s Jud Frye or full-figured ladies like Hairspray’s Edna Turnblad or heroic figures like Les Miz’s Jean Valjean will delight in seeing the Los Angeles musical theater favorite in romantic lead mode, bringing resonant vocals and an authentic lumberjack manliness to Adam, whose less attractive misogynistic sides Zeller doesn’t shy away from revealing.

Wonderful Day It’s hard to imagine a better leading lady for Zeller than Huntington, whose got not only Jane Powell’s blonde prettiness but just the right edge to make Milly no shrinking Violet. Add to this a Broadway-ready soprano belt and dance finesse to compete with the show’s triple-threat ensemble members and you’ve got a dream Milly. Huntington and Zeller’s great chemistry together is icing on the cake.

1378397_10201212334005055_544048336_n Talented AMDA grad Ariel Neydavoud steps out of the chorus to lend his gorgeous pipes to youngest brother Gideon’s “Love Never Goes Away,” in addition to hoofing with the best of his onstage brothers—Josh Taylor as Benjamin, Tyler Logan as Caleb, Michael Milligan as Daniel, Donald Pettit as Ephraim, and Chaz Feuerstine as Frank—each of them a bona fide triple threat, the entire bunch making Adam’s brood far more than mere cardboard-cutout brothers under Renslow’s detail-attentive direction.

The brides are an equally splendid song-and-dance bevy—Sharon Jewell as Dorcas, Jessie Parmelee as Ruth, Susanna Vaughan as Liza, Sierra Taylor as Martha, Rachel Burkert as Sarah, and Andrea Aron as Alice—and their suitors are marvelous too—dance captain Pierre-Daniel as Nathan, Ryan Powell as Luke, Bert Fulton as Matt, dance captain Eric W. Taylor as Joel, Justin Matthew Segura as Zeke, and Jason Cho as Jeb—a grand total of eighteen young triple-threats making the show’s “Social Dance” the crowd-pleasing showstopper it is.

Faith Teuber (Sally), Frank Jones and Linda Jones (Mr. and Mrs. Hoallum), Logan Grosjean (Mr. Sanders), and Jeremy Magouirk (Preacher) complete the all-around excellent cast.

Musical director Douglas Austin once again inspires topnotch vocals from his cast, who perform to pre-recorded full-orchestra tracks that sound almost live thanks to Candlelight’s top-notch sound system and sound engineer Nick Galvan. Greg Hinrichsen’s colorful set relies on quite a few painted scrims, but the Pontipee house is three-dimensional and detailed. Katy Streeter of SteveGDesign has created a vibrant lighting design. Costumes, coordinated by Jenny Wentworth, are rainbow-hued homespun treats.

Logan Grosjean is stage manager and Orlando Montes technical director. Michael Ryan’s expertise on the acoustic guitar provided a melodic musical backdrop to fine dining at the performance reviewed. Kudos as always to Candlelight Pavilion owner/producer Ben D. Bollinger, general manager/vice president Michael Bollinger, acting producer Mindy Teuber, and artistic director John LaLonde.

1381798_10201212344565319_1653957614_n Seven Brides For Seven Brothers proves once again that no one cooks up better musical theater entertainment and scrumptious cuisine (courtesy of executive chef Juan Alvarado) better than Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theatre. That they do it year-round is the best possible news for musical theater lovers and performers alike.

Candlelight Pavilion, 455 W. Foothill Blvd., Claremont.

–Steven Stanley
October 27, 2013

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