ALEX GAUMOND is playing Adam Pontipee in the current Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre production of Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, heading up the cast with Laura Pitt-Pulford as Milly.
The Canadian actor and singer recently took on the role of Beadle Bamford in Sweeney Todd at the ENO, played opposite Robert Lindsay in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Savoy), and portrayed Miss Trunchbull in Matilda the Musical (Cambridge Theatre). Previous credits include Top Hat, We Will Rock You and Legally Blonde.
Based on the 1954 MGM film of the same name, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers was adapted for the stage in 1978 with a book by Lawrence Kasha and David Landay, and new songs by Academy Award-winning Joel Hirschhorn and Al Kasha.
This production, running until 29 August, is directed by Rachel Kavanaugh, who also staged The Sound of Music for Regent’s Park. Set and costume design is by Peter McKintosh and choreography is by Alistair David.
A new recording of songs from Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, released by JAY Records, features Alex and fellow cast members Laura Pitt-Pulford and Sam O’Rourke performing iconic songs from the classic musical, alongside the National Symphony Orchestra.
Alex is in conversation with Musical Theatre Review editor Lisa Martland.
You are a little way into the run of the show now, how is it going?
I’m loving it, I had always wanted to work at the Park. I think the venue completely changes the atmosphere of what the show can be, and all for the better.
It doesn’t feel like we’re on a set. In fact, the first time the show’s designer Peter McKintosh showed us the set, he told us to think of it as a playground, a place from which we were inviting the audience to join us on our farm.
So much of the action in the story is outdoors as well so there’s that wonderful connection with the environment of the park surrounding us.
Much of the theatre you have done so far has taken place in a more conventional space. How have you changed your approach for this production?
You’re right, I am used to more traditional pros arch theatre where the lights go down and the audience is directly in front of you. At the Open Air Theatre, I suppose in a similar way to the Globe, the audience is very much part of the story, you have to consciously include them and use them.
It is really only about a third of the way through Act II of an evening performance that it gets dark, so we can see the audience pretty clearly most of the time. Fortunately, our director Rachel Kavanaugh has worked at Regent’s Park before, so she has been able to guide us, to make sure we never ignore any part of the audience.
From the get go, my first number, ‘Bless Your Beautiful Hide’, gives me an opportunity to stroll on and engage with the audience. When I sing about finding the ‘gal for me’, I can even look like I am considering some of the audience members, which makes them part of the story. The song is actually so popular, that sometimes people are singing the lyrics back at me!
I chatted to one of my friends the other day who had appeared at the Park in Into the Woods, and he said he actually missed that connection with the audience afterwards. I can see what he means. The whole cast and creative team have filled the space with colour and movement.
A high percentage of people who come to see Seven Brides will be familiar with the 1954 film, even if they haven’t see the stage show. Was it a show you knew well?
It wasn’t really. When I was growing up in Canada there wasn’t a great deal of exposure to musical theatre. I was aware that it existed, but my knowledge of the piece was very basic. Now I have fallen in love with it.
I know the show’s values are very different to what we are used to now, but there is so much heart. One of my favourite scenes is when all the boys meet the girls at the social. The boys are so naive, and I really feel for them.
The production has been very well received, why do you think it has worked so well with contemporary audiences, despite its old-fashioned values and traditions?
It stems from day one when Rachel explained that Millie would be portrayed as someone equally as strong as Adam, a natural match for him, not a subservient, weaker character. It was also important that we see what a genuine passion they have for each other. If an audience wishes to invest in the love story and believes in the passionate Adam and Millie have for each other, all the other events that take place make more sense.
Do you think Adam feels he is losing control of his home and family in Act II when Millie begins to play such an important role in everyone’s lives?
Yes, he struggles with all the change. His parents died young, he has had to take charge and be the father figure for a long time. When he reacts the way he does and leaves, I don’t think he knows any better, it’s a coping mechanism. Before he goes away, his big song [A Woman Ought To Know Her Place] has lyrics which are quite chauvinistic, but at the same time I try and show how vulnerable he is feeling at that point.
All of this makes the scene when Adam redeems himself and apologises to Millie all the more powerful. Then we realise why they are still together. I really love the character.
What difference do you think it has made having a female director?
Who knows what another director might have brought to the table, but I do think as a female director, Rachel has had her finger on the pulse in relation to what would be acceptable for today’s modern audiences. And at the same time she knows the story goes back a long time to a very different era, and she doesn’t wimp out in showing what people were like back then.
What was your reaction to being able to record some of the score with the National Symphony Orchestra?
We were thrilled when we heard that we were going to have the opportunity to record some of the songs. We will have put our stamp on it.
Listen to Alex Gaumond singing ‘Bless Your Beautiful Hide’ – HERE
Listen to Laura Pitt-Pulford singing ‘Wonderful, Wonderful Day’ – HERE
Readers may also be interested in:
Seven Brides For Seven Brothers at Regent’s Park – check out new production images – News