It’s quickly clear which members of the audience have seen Seven Brides for Seven Brothers before. They are grinning ear-to-ear, tapping their toes and gasping with delight at dance sequences every bit as exhilarating as in the hit MGM film. Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre’s production is a truly spectacular revival of a golden age Hollywood musical.
Director Rachel Kavanuagh and choreographer Alistair David have outdone themselves: the quality is astounding, without a single weak link in the cast, the energy is infectious and the Western setting, replete with frontiers and forests, is enchanting on the outdoor stage.
But along with joyous musical fans there’s a smattering of uninitiated spectators, who sit agog when Plutarch’s Rape of the Sabine Women becomes both a joyous ensemble number and the model for romance.
The potted plot of this musical is so ridiculous it verges on comic: bearded backwoodsman Adam (Alex Gaumound) charms ‘sassy’ Milly (Laura Pitt-Pulford) to join him for life of wedded bliss in his isolated mountain cabin – but neglects to mention the six burly brothers for whom she must cook and clean.
As all seven brothers begin to benefit from a woman’s touch they hanker after wives of their own. Cue the other six brides. With a combination of kidnap and likely Stockholm syndrome, the show ends in a septuplet wedding scene that makes even the most tenuous of Shakespeare’s comic endings seem tame.
On paper it sounds horrific, but there’s a sense of caricatured self-awareness that is brought out brilliantly in this cartoonishly exaggerated production. The brothers’ makeover from burly cowboys to perfectly preened Prince charming types with prancing dance-moves is pure film fantasy.
Songs such as Sobbin’ Women, Goin’ Courtin’ and Bless Your Beautiful Hide are so catchy and exuberant you can’t help but be charmed, and the crackling chemistry between the sexes brings out a mutual lust.
Just as the constant violence of Tom and Jerry cartoons is grotesque and disturbing if taken seriously, it’s the silliness of this musical that makes you ridicule the macho message. When Adam sings about women knowing their place we laugh, rather than wince. And it’s not just sniggers; throughout the show we double over in hysterical laughter.
Yes, there will be a few people irked and offended by the plot (you have been warned) But for everyone else this summer musical is an unashamedly uplifting treat that will have you humming all the way home.
|What||Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre|
|Where||Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park, Inner Cir, Westminster, London, NW1 4NU | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Baker Street (underground)|
16 Jul 15 – 29 Aug 15, 7:54 PM – 9:45 PM
|Website||Click here for more information and to book via Regents Park Open Theatre|