★★★ | Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, Sheffield Lyceum Theatre and UK Tour

Set in the backwoods of Oregon in 1850, Adam Pontipee is a burly woodsman who lives on an isolated farm in the mountains. On a visit to town to trade goods, he decides to take himself a wife and meets the feisty Milly who agrees to marry him. But when they return to the farmhouse to start their married life together, Adam introduces her to his six ill-mannered, uncouth and rough and tumble brothers.

But the brothers are diamonds in the rough, and following a little smoothing around the edges, Adam takes his brothers to the town social, where they meet and fall in love with their prospective girlfriends. But when the lovesick boys return to the farm, they pine for their girls, so decide to head to town and bring them back. But with the girls distressed at being kidnapped and the farm cut off from the town for the winter by an avalanche, will true love win through?

This vibrant and colourful revival of one of the most popular musicals from the golden age of MGM Studio’s was great fun. The show itself is twee, old fashioned and, at times, very camp, but therein lies its utterly infectious charm. The songs include “Bless Your Beautiful Hyde”, “Going Courtin’” and “Wonderful, Wonderful Day” and were proficiently performed by the cast. The songs were interspersed with some exuberant and energetic dance numbers, with somersaults and acrobatics aplenty. Both the town social (the main set piece of the first act) and the finale were particular highlights. The stage was crammed full of talented singers, dancers and musicians, all of whom performed a number of well-choreographed and enjoyable pieces.

In terms of the cast, Sam Attwater, who plays Adam was unable to perform on the night, and his shoes were ably filled by Alex Hammond. Hammond’s deep voice and gruffness in his singing neatly mirrored the wooden roughness of the wilderness setting. Helena Blackman, who was runner up on “How do you solve a problem like Maria?” was in fine voice and provided a good turn as the go-getting Milly. The rest of the brothers were made up of an attractive and very buff set of young men who proved that they had been chosen for their talent as well as their looks by being more than capable of some great dancing and singing. The remaining ensemble made up the townsfolk and nicely rounded out the cast.

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Director and choreographer Patti Colombo has added some nice touches, such as a variety of dance styles, ranging from some ballet inspired pieces to an abundance of lively barn dancing, and also including some musicians on the stage during some scenes or to act as bridging tool in scene changes. The music was typical of the country genre and in good keeping with the setting of the show, with violins, acoustic guitars and mouth organs aplenty.

The detailed and effective set looked great, with the stage being easily and smoothly transformed from the forest to the town to the interior of the farmhouse. The set was awash with wooden buildings, furniture and props which fitting in nicely with the feel of the show. The lighting was well thought out with a green tinge enhancing the forest, good use of silhouette at times and a warm glow in the outdoor scenes. All of the costumes were colourful, with flowing gowns and smart tunics and added nicely to the vibrancy of the whole thing.

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Seven Brides for Seven Brothers a whole had a really light feel to it and was undemanding, foot tapping, enjoyable entertainment. The story itself is a little thin and quaint, but the reality is that this is good old fashioned entertainment which harks back to a more innocent time and is more than capable of entertaining the audience without the use of special effects or elaborate mechanical props. It is a credit to the musical itself to think that 60 years after being written for the big screen, the stage show can still bring a smile to the face of theatre goers.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is currently playing at the Sheffield Lyceum until the 15th February 2014 before continuing on its national tour. For information and tickets visit
http://www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/event/seven-brides-for-seven-brothers-14/ and the official website at http://www.sevenbridesthemusical.com/sights-sounds.html

About the author: Paul Szabo
In between visits to the theatre, watching films, photography, walking, scuba diving and singing (badly); Paul writes for TheGayUK.