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SEVEN BRIDES

FOR SEVEN BROTHERS

Producer/choreographer Kath Lunn discusses her production for The Deanery Players, Harrogate. The Deanery Players chose this show to celebrate th eir 40th Anniversary easo n. Six performances were given, in February 1999, at Harrogate Theatre, which was built in 1901, and has a seating capacity of 500.

CASl7ING Our auditions for the brot h consisted of two sections dialogue and song. The brides selected all had dance training a I hoped they would "carry" the m~ in the choreography. I had set: ama teur productions where . lengthy dances had been cut h~ minimum, but the production tea took an early decision choreograph them in their enti We hoped that the yo uth 足 exuberance of the cast, the da o trilining of the brides and tl1 gymnastic training of some of th brothers and suitors would create the competitive and !i" e! atmosphere required for the chu rc socia l. There is also an equally 101) _ Wedding Dance finale to the sho~\

The saga of Sevell Brides for Seven Brothers began when famous American writer Vincent Benet published a short sto ry entitled "The Sobbing Women" in the May of 1928 issue of Country Gentleman Magazine. Based on Plutarch's tale of the abductio n of th e Sabine women by the Romans, the story told of the seven Ponti pee brothers, pioneers in the Oregon of the new West, and the courting of their seven brides.

The romance between Gideon (t yOlLl1gest brother) and Alice (Ih.. writte yo un ges t bride) is sympathetically - the audienct' instilntly warming to them. Th need to be played by young peo pl~ who have charisma and sweetne. f Two 17-year-olds were ideaUy Cd t

Metro Goldwyn Mayer presented it as a screen musical in 1954, starring Jane Powell and Howard Keel. It was an instant hit and won an Academy Award. It beca me a stage musical on Broadway 30 years later, in 1982. TIle British premiere was presented at York Theah'e Royal in 1984.

The first four weeks were giVeJ; over to the dancing - eight rehearsa ls in all. This went bett than I had first expected. We discovered brothers who could d split jumps and axe jumps and several with the ilbility to execute cartwheels and somersaults.

As in the original story, the film and stage versions tell of Milly, a waitress, falling in love at first sight with Adam Pontipee, marrying him, and then discovering that he lives with his six younger brothers and that she is expected to cook, clean and run the home for all of them. Milly's plan to marry off the brothers and tlw taming of the chauvinistic Adam provides the plot for the show.

Once we started dialogue and singing rehearsals the individu;L personalities of the brothers started to emerge. The y were a ve n talented group, who needed littl other than basic direction, and many of their improvisation~ proved humorous an d entertaining. Most of th l. experience of the brothers anel brides cam e from school productions, but their application could not be faulted as they sough. emulate the polished to performances of our experienced Adam and Mill y.

TIle stage script is almost word for word that of the original film script. TIle show has a small cast with virtually no chorus work. There are parts for 9 women and 16 men, preferably with danci ng experience. Adam and Milly, the leading roles, both need s trong singing voices and the brothers and brides all have to sing. The film version is remembered with <)ffec tion, the over-riding memory being the Barn Social and the dancing and acrobatics of the brothers (several in the film were members of the New York Ballet Company).

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The brides also developed contrasting cha racteristics - one flirtatious, one cheeky, one romantic, one practical, one naive and one sweet and caring. This is written, but with very little

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: u e our brides skilfully , t out these facets of their

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songs from this film are Jed in the stage version but ~ew music is melodious with :rics an integral part of the "We've Got to Make it 'U gh the Winter", which the ers sing when banished by to /jve in the barn, rously relates their ~t ra tion and longing for th e -, whilst Milly's "O ne Man" Tibes her desire to be loved but d ominated by Adam. r Musical Director had strong , \5 on the pace of the music, p ing it liv e ly, and only I tantly slowing the tempo for romantic moments. The _hestration is for twe nty us ici,uls but our budget only ' wed the Musical Director, anD, bass, drums, trumpet, mbone, 2 reeds and a violin. is combination proved more " n adequate in our SOD-seater eatre and the balance between gers and orchestra was good.

e set was hired from Proscenium Lancashire. It consisted of five rg,' trucks wi th town buildings nd farmhou se built on both sides. llere were also two gauzes, I back ·Io th, 4 cut-cloths and a very heavy fIench-f1a t. '1ur dress-technical rehearsal is on .e evening of get-in day and Ithough our production manager d previously made models of . ach tTuck and plotted their many -,;loves, it was a slow a.nd tedious hearsa!. The trucks illl moved on -ee-running castors, without {; ke.~, and due to the sharp rake of ." stage there was a danger of . e ir ending up in the pitl This was

sol ved by the thea tre agreeing to our drilling holes for drop-bolts in the stage, to hold the bigges t trucks, and large wedges were purchased from the local builders' merchant to secure the smaller pieces. By the second performance our many stage hands h~d mastered the complexities of the moves and cut the running time by seven minutes. It WilS a very impressive set and im ingenious avalanche, created with a swipe track and trick cloths, drew applause at every performance.

COSTU~ The Deanery Players have always des igned and sewn their own costumes. For this show the brides wore colour co-ordinated outfits that had been made for previous productions of A'leel lIIe in 51 LOllis and Hello Dolly (of the sa me period) and our wardrobe mistress produced new wedding gowns for the fi na le. TI1e heavy dark check of the brides' winter clothes were in sharp contrast to the frills, flounces and bright colours or their spring dresses. TIle brothers started the show in worn jeans and checked shirts, which they provided from their own wardrobes, but their church social outfits and the suits of the Townsmen and Suitors were hired.

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We hired six radio microphones. These were circulated amongst the cast as required, supervised by one of the s tage staff. The theatre provided three £\oat mikes. There were no special lighting effects - just a contrast between summer and winter settings, and plenty of colour during the dance routines. The abduction scenes were played behind the frontiscloth gauze and the avalanche behind a black gauze.

anniversary season and the cast had a wonderful time. The show was most successful - it sold itself! The audiences were enthusiastic - "such a happy show" - "great family en!ertainment" - "I always loved the film" - "..it was excep tionally good" - all comments heard over and over again. It was an excellent choice for our

However, a note of ca ution - we are a young group and a fairly small one - I could foresee difficulties keeping everyone happ ily occupied in a society with it wider age range and larger membership ­ AND, you must have thirteen young men capable of learning to "move" if not to dance!

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Seven Brides For Seven Brothers - April 1999