Last Saturday night I met a friend at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre on the northwest side of Indianapolis to see “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.”* It was directed by Douglas E. Stark, with music direction by Terry Woods and choreography by Ron Morgan.
Neither my friend nor I had seen a production of this show before. We both enjoyed it very much. The story is very slight: seven rough-and-rowdy men in the Wild West (1850s Oregon) want to get married, and seven prim-and-proper town girls want to marry them, but everyone needs to overcome a few obstacles first, from bad manners to avalanches. However, even though the plot and characters are bare bones, the music, dancing, costumes, and set (including lighting, sound design, and special effects) are all richly delightful.
And memorable! When I got in my car to go home afterwards, the man at the car next to mine sang “And the women were sobbin’, sobbin’, sobbin!” as he first held the door open for his wife and then skipped around to the driver’s seat.
Tony Lawson and Krista Severeid play the leads: eldest brother Adam and his bride, Milly. My press kit says that these two will be married in real life soon after the end of the show’s run, in October. I confess that sometimes I took myself out of the story Saturday night by trying to imagine what it would be like to sing love songs to your betrothed in front of an audience almost every single day in the weeks leading up to your wedding. What if you had a fight about what color your bridegrooms’ cummerbunds should be and you didn’t feel like singing that he is the “One Man” for you or that God should “Bless Your (her) Beautiful Hide” on that particular day? I guess that is when your professional training as an actor kicks in.
Anyway, I swooned as Adam and Milly sang “Love Never Goes Away” with youngest brother Gideon (Sam Weber) in the first act as he tried to sort out his feelings for Alice (Kristen Noonan.) I swooned again as Adam and Milly sang that song to re-commit to each other in the second act.
I loved the exuberant “Wonderful Day,” too, and the funny “We’ve Gotta Make It Through the Winter,” and the touching “Glad That You Were Born,” and more. I hadn’t heard any of these songs before, but I immediately felt at home with them. The voices singing them are beautiful!
The dancing is a treat, too. Choreographer Ron Morgan fills the intimate Beef and Boards stage with dazzling leaps, lifts, and tumbles and perfectly negotiated partnerships. Costumer Brian Horton has the women in long, frilly dresses that swirl and twirl marvelously.
However, I have another confession to make: my favorite costumes in the show are the quilts that the brothers tie around their hips while Milly is washing their “outside clothes” and teaching them about “Goin’ Courting.” Who knew that strong, bare, male chests would go so well (look so sexy!) with folds of patchwork?
Each of the brothers is a cutie in his own way. Anthony Majewski plays Benjamin. Doug King is Caleb. Peter Scharbrough is Daniel. Kenny Shepard is Ephraim. David Purdy is Frank. (Don’t you dare call him Frankincense, even though that is the Biblical name his mother gave him.) And as I mentioned earlier, Sam Weber is Gideon.
And when they get into a fight, hoo-whee, it’s a FIGHT. Fight director Adam Noble did a great job.
The pretty town girls that the brothers hope to marry include Dorcas (Deb Wims), Ruth (Teresa Diehl), Liza (Kate Goetzinger), Martha (Sally Mitchell), Sarah (Amanda Brantley), and, as I mentioned earlier, Alice (Kristen Noonan.)
The townspeople that do not particularly like the rambunctious brothers include Mr. Bixby (Eddie Currie), Joel (Nathanael Welch – he also plays the Preacher), Matt/Lumberjack (Jonathan McHatton), Zeke (Eric Allen Smith), Carl/Lumberjack (Jason Johnson), Jeb/Lumberjack (Jamie Westberry), and Luke (Tyler Braun.)
(Hey! Tyler Braun! I have enjoyed his work in several community theatres around town over the past couple of years and in the Dancing Santas group at the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra holiday concert last December. I am delighted to see that he has made it into another professional show.)
The little orchestra up in its loft sounded good as usual. Conductor Terry Woods is on keyboard. Neil Broeker is on woodwinds. David Coleson is on trumpet. Tim Kelly is on percussion. Kristy Templet is on keyboard.
I thought I saw someone else in Daniel Hesselbrock’s sound booth right before the show began but I forgot to look again later, so I can’t tell you for sure who actually ran sound on Saturday night. But in any case, Daniel’s sound design was blissfully clear and smooth as usual.
Michael Layton designed and lit the multi-level Wild West set, making good use of the B&B stage’s turntable. My friend and I both especially loved the wagon wheels that turn to make it seem as if the stationary wagon at the side of the stage is actually moving as Adam drives it. Bill Mollencupp is the technical director and Ed Stockman is the stage manager.
All-in-all, this is a frothy yet satisfying show.
The service of our server, Julie, and Chef Odell Ward’s comfort food buffet were also satisfying.
“Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” continues through October 4, 2009 with several matinee and evening shows each week. Please visit www.beefandboards.com for more information and call the Box Office at 317-872-9664 between 10am and 7pm daily to buy tickets.
Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com and @indytheatre
*Book by Lawrence Kasha and David Landay; lyrics by Johnny Mercer; music by Gene DePaul; new songs by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn. Based upon the MGM film and a short story called “The Sobbin’ Women,” by Stephen Vincent Bene’t.