Review: Animated dance numbers make Pittsburgh CLO's 'Seven Brides' a delight
When people reminisce about the 1954 movie of “Seven Brides and Seven Brothers,” it's not long before they begin gushing about Michael Kidd's choreography.
Sure, they have fond memories about its stars Howard Keel and Jane Powell and one or two of Johnny Mercer and Gene de Paul's original songs in from the MGM movie classic.
But it's images of high-stepping robust, athletic male dancers and their spirited female partners that linger vividly in the brain.
Choreography is also the high point of the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera production that is running through June 16 at the Benedum Theater, Downtown.
Director and choreographer Sha Newman has spared no dancer's joints or ligaments in her effort to give the audience a gloriously invigorated, boisterous and high-spirited evening of dance numbers.
The musical's seven Pontipee brothers, their brides – actual or intended – and the women's half dozen unsuccessful suitors literally soar, swoop, tumble, tussle, leap and sashay effortlessly and gymnastically.
Aided by their youthfulness, talent and training the ensemble dances on without so much as a pause for breath while leaving the audience breathless.
Script writers Lawrence Kasha and David Landay set their musical to the backwoods of Oregon, circa 1850 where a family of seven adult brothers delegate elder brother Adam to get a bride while he's in town so they will have someone to cook and clean for them.
As Adam Pontipee and his bride Milly, Greensburg native and Pittsburgh CLO veteran George Dvorsky and Mamie Parris display an instant attraction that makes their 15-minute courtship appear plausible, though incautious, even by musical comedy standards.
Dvorsky's charmingly awkward Adam minimizes the character's more domineering attributes while Parris's equally smitten Milly's decision to marry Adam shows a spirit that is more adventurous than naïve.
After discovering that she has unkowningly added six additional men to her life and work Milly sets out to civilize them into marriage material.
Impatient with mid-19th Century courting, the brothers shorten the process by kidnapping six young women who end up trapped on the ranch when an avalanche blocks the road.
Scenic designer Anna Louizos provides a suitably rustic setting of snow-capped mountains, towering rough-barked pines and a log cabin dwelling for the proceedings.
But there are still some snags.
On opening night the Pittsburgh CLO production was marred with technical glitches and errors involving scenic changes and microphones as well as some punches that fell short of their intended targets. Those should be remedied by the time you read this.
The show is an old-fashioned musical and a perennial favorite of Pittsburgh CLO audiences.
But some of the its outdated male mindsets will not fit comfortably with everyone.
That was made clear early on when Adam's order to Milly to sit down drew a collective gasp from the audience.
To temper those moments the current production features some new, less misogynistic songs by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn — “Love Never Goes Away,” “Glad You Were Born” and “Where Were You” that will connect better with contemporary audiences.
What remains timelessly delightful is Newman's choreography and the ensemble of young, irrepressibly animated dancers.
Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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