Monday, April 15, 2013
|Kevin Earley and company. Photos by Michael Lamont|
The freshest revival of a classic in years has opened at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts and this one is most definitely not your grandmother’s movie musical. Oh, it has all the elements of its MGM movie musical roots, but under the direction of Glenn Casale, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers explodes with the kind of high-octane energy and all around pizzazz that hooks a modern audience’s attention and never lets it go.
Casale’s pacing and use of humor is divine, his casting is a twist on the traditional, and his choreographer Patti Colombo delivers some of the most exciting dance numbers to date on Southern California stages.
Howard Keel and Jane Powell created box office gold for the 1954 film version of Seven Brides and in Casale’s vision it is Kevin Earley and Beth Malone taking on the roles of mountain man Adam Pontipee and his bride at first sight, Milly. Earley’s resonant baritone rings out across the theater at curtain rise and he continues to create a rich vocal presence throughout the show with gorgeous songs like “Bless Your Beautiful Hide” and “Love Never Goes Away.” Gone are a few of the harshest lines that can make a modern woman cringe, allowing Earley to instead explore the real struggle of a man whose motivation has always been his family’s survival. It especially pays off in “Where Were You?” and then later in “Am I Stubborn” and pair of reprises of “Love Never Goes Away” and “Wonderful Day.”
|Kevin Earley and Beth Malone|
Beth Malone also offers a fresh interpretation of Milly, full of backbone and grounded to the core. This is no blushing ingénue who does as she’s told. This is a woman we have no doubt can successfully wrangle seven brothers and Malone is endlessly inventive in the way she inhabits her character and allows her own unique strengths to shape Milly. Plus, she can belt a comedy song like “I Married Seven Brothers” while clearing and resetting an entire stage, and break your heart in a simple melody like “Glad That You Were Born.”
Patti Colombo’s choreography brilliantly combines a classical dance aesthetic with a testosterone driven athleticism, the effect of which leaves the audience breathless at the sheer amount of energy expended on the stage. Act I’s barn dance is a thrilling example of the punch in her creativity and her staging of “We Gotta Make It Through the Winter” pulls all of the song’s subtext out of the lyric and places it front and center with hilarious results. Even more satisfying is the fact that everything is executed to perfection by an ensemble that gives its all, song after song, back flip after back flip, with or without axes in hand.
Musical director Dennis Castellano and his orchestra are in top form for this Golden Age musical full of beautiful, lyrical melodies. The score includes songs from the film version by Johnny Mercer and Gene De Paul, as well as additional songs by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn that were written and added later. Together with Casale’s staging, Colombo’s choreography, and a cast that knows exactly what it’s doing, the music completes Seven Brides’ vibrant rush for the senses.
The designers have created striking visuals of the musical’s 1850 time period with forests, mountains, an avalanche, western town and the high country all drawn to emphasize the majesty of the great outdoors. Costumer Jess Goldstein’s designs are a terrific combination of color and function against this heightened natural backdrop.
It’s surprising that a tour of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers has not made its way across the country in recent years. This particular version of the revival would surely be met with thunderous applause at every stop.
SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS
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Labels: la mirada theatre
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