Venue: The Alhambra Theatre, Bradford
2nd May 2002
4 / 5
Reviewed by:
Alex Waddington
Most of us have seen the film version staring Howard Keel at some point in our lives - most likely around Christmas time. And itís a pleasure to report the current touring theatre production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is equally entertaining.

True, you know what youíre going to get right from the start - a good, old-fashioned, happy-clappy, rip-roaring, piece of family entertainment. But that doesnít stop it from being highly enjoyable.

This latest touring effort is headed up by Dave Willetts (Adam), who gained fame in the West End by becoming the first person in the world to play the lead roles in Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera. Willetts is supported by an equally famous theatrical face - Shona Lindsay (Milly), whoís previously played major parts in both Phantom, Grease and Singiní in the Rain.

The musical opens on a mountain ranch in the old American Wild West, where Adam is struggling to cope with the responsibility of looking after his six younger brothers - Benjamin, Caleb, Daniel, Ephraim, Frank and Gideon.

He realise he needs a wife to look after him and the boys, and so rides into town and woos a waitress called Milly for all of five minutes. After marrying her, he takes her back to the ranch, where sheís stunned to find six other men to look after. As Milly contemplates what sheís let herself in for, she decides the best solution is to find wives for Adamís brothers, and sets about teaching them all manners and courting skills. Then itís off to the town social - and thatís where the real action starts!

Although one got the feeling Willetts was a bit too old to be playing the part of Adam - more of a father than an older brother - he discharged his part with vigour and energy. His voice was commanding and powerful, and his singing strong, although words did tend to become lost in his gruff American drawl. Compared to Howard Keel in the screen version, he wasnít nearly smooth or charming enough either.

But the undoubted star of the show was Lindsay, who carried off her role with great aplomb and confidence, keeping the sizeable first night audience captivated throughout. Aside from her stunning vocal talents, she cleverly portrayed Milly as a strong and determined young woman, rather than just some dumb blonde subservient hick.

Special mention must also go to the six brothers, whose energetic acrobatics in the ĎSocial Danceí number were one of the highlights of the evening. Joe Smith, playing the loveable and naÔve Gideon, particularly caught the eye, pulling off a succession of spectacular cartwheels and flips whenever the occasion and the music demanded it.

When called upon, the six suitors from the town all performed admirably, battling with the brothers to pull off the most impressive stunts. The six brides also played their part, although itís a shame we didnít hear more of their singing - Catie Marie Entwistle (Dorcas) in particular seemed to have an excellent voice but didnít get the chance to really use it.

At times the entire cast seemed to be packed onto the stage, so a mention must go to Adrian Allsop for some masterful choreography. And while the set was nothing spectacular compared to some of todayís mega productions, the simple design made for quick scene changes, allowing the production to gallop along at a good pace.

It was also fascinating to watch the more minor characters at the rear of the stage. Full credit here to Maurice Lane for some excellent direction, which ensured they were always animated and alive, contributing to the energy of the production.

If youíre looking for a night out full of intellectual stimulation, then Seven Brides clearly isnít for you. But in terms of rip-roaring, smile-inducing, good old-fashioned stage entertainment, youíll be hard pushed to find anything better this side of the Mississippi.

Copyright J A Waddington 2002. For syndication rights, please email.

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