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SEVEN BR'IDES

FOR SEVIEN BROTHERS

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

BACKGRO~~.!>L-'l~,Q~ PLOT~\ The saga of Seven Brides for Sevell Brothers b.,gan when famous American writer Vincent Benet published a short story entitled "The Sobbing Women" in the May of 1928 issue of Country Gentleman Magazine. Based on Plutarch's tale of the abduction of the Sabine women by the Romans, the story told of the seven Pontipee brothers, pioneers in the Oregon of the new West, and the courting of their seven brides, 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 became a stage musical on Broadway 30 yea~s later, in 1982. The British premiere was presented at York Theatre Royal in 1984. As in the original story, the film and stage versions tell of Milly, a waitress, falling in love at first sight with Adam Ponti pee, 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 otf the brothers and the taming of the chauvinistic Adam provides the plot for the show. The stage script is almost word for word that of the original film script. The show has a small cast with virtually no chorus work. There are parts for <) women and 16 men, preferably with dancing experience. Adam and Milly, the leading roles, both need strong singing voices and the brothers and brides all ha ve to sing. The hIm version is remembert'd with affection, 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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CAST..LNG Our a uditions for the brother足 consisted of two sections dialogue and song. The brides \\ selected all had dance training a I hoped they would "carry" the 111 t!T in the choreography. I had se~ amateur productions where lengthy dances had been cut to minimum, but the production tea", took an early decision t( choreograph them in their entireh We hoped that the youthfu exuberance of the cast, the dance training of the brides and the gymnastic training of some of the brothers <1nd suitors would creat", the competitive and livel y atmosphere required for the church social. There is also an equally lon ~ Wedding Dance finale to the sho".

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The romance between Gideon (the youngest brother) and Alice (the youngest bride) is writte sympathetically - the audience instantly warming to them. Thc~揃 need to be played by young people who have charisma and sweehless. Two 17-year-olds were ideally cast.

The first four weeks were given over to the dancing - eight rehearsals in all. This went better than I had first expected. W discovered brothers who could do split jumps and axe jumps and several with the ability to exe ut cartwheels and somersaults. Once we started dialogue ilnd singing rehearsals the individ ua personalities of the brothers started to emerge. They were a ven talented group, who needed lit tle other than basic direction , an足 many of their improvisatiol' 足 proved humorous an entertaining. Most of t~ experience of the brothers an.. brides came from sch productions, but their applica b could not be faulted as they SO LI to emulate the poli,! performances of our experi nc Adam and Milly. The brides also develor contrasting characteristics fli rta tious, one cheeky, romantic, one practical, one and one sweet and caring. TIu.: written, but with very l .

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our brides skilfully th 'facets of the ir ties with their move ment

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-"al songs from thi s film are ...:led in the stilge version but "' l'\ \ ' music is melodious with .• ics an integ ral part of the "We've Got to Make it 'ugh the Winter", whi ch the thers sing when banished by \. to live In th e barn, morously relat es their stration and longing for the S , whilst Milly's "One Man " , -cribes her d es ire to be loved but I dominated by Adam. r Musical Director had s trong ew s on the pace of the music, eeping it lively, and only .-I uctantly slowing the te mpo for The me romantic mom e nts. rches triltion is for twenty usicians but our budget only Howed the Musical Director, p iano, bass, drums, trumpet, trombone, 2 reeds and a violin. 1 his combination prove d more thil n adequate in our SOO-seMer theatre and the bala nce between singers and orchestra was good .

SE~ The set was hired from Proscenium in Lancashire. It consisted of five IMge trucks with town buildings and farmhouse built on both sid Eo' s. There were also two gauze's, 1 back cloth, 4 cut-cloths and a very heavy french-flat. Our dress-technical rehearsal is on the evening of get-in day and although our production manager had previously mad e models of each truck and plotted their many moves, it was a slow and tedious rehearsal. The trucks all moved on free-running castors, without brakes, and due to the sharp rake of the stilge there was a danger of their endi.ng up in the pit! This was

solved by the theatre agreeing to our drilling holes for drop-bolts in the stage, to hold the bigges t trucks, and large w ed ges were purchased from the local builders' m erchant to secure the s maller pieces. By the second p erformance our many stage hands hild mastered the complexiti es of the moves ,md cut the running time by seven minutes. It was a very impre.ssive set a nd an ingeni ous avalanche, created with a swipe track and trick clo th s, drew applause at eve ry performance.

The Deanery Players have always d es igned and sewn their own costumes. For this show the brides wore colour co-ordina ted outfi ts thilt had been made for previous productions of Meet me in St LOlli;; and Hell o Dolly (of the same period) and our wardrobe mistress produced new wedding gowns fo r the final e. The heavy dark check o f the brides' winter clothes were in sharp contrast to the frill s, flounces and bright colours or their s pring dresses. The brothers s tarted 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.

SOUNDAND~ We hired six radio microphones. These were circulated amongst the cast as required , supervised by one of the stage s taff. Th e theatre provided three float mikes. There w e re no special lighting effects - just a contrast between summer and winte r se ttings, and plenty of colour during the dance routines. The abd uction scenes w e re played behind the fronti scloth gauze and the avalanche behind a black gauze.

SUMMARY• .....~.

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anniversilrY season and the cast had a wonderful time.

The show was most successful - it sold itselfl The audiences were enthusiastic - "such a happ y show" - "greM filmily entertainment" - "r always loved the film " - .... it wa s exceptionally good" - all comments heard over and over again. It was an excellent choice for our

However, a note of caution - we are a young group and a fairly small one - r could fo resee difficulties everyone happil y keeping occ upied in a society with a wider age range and larger membership ­ AND, yo u must ha ve thirteen young men capable of learning to "move" if not to dance!

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Seven Brides Fo Seven Brothers - April 1999  

Kath Lunn discusses her production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers for the Deanery Players, Harrogate