TV and theatre performer Sam Attwater is starring as Adam Pontipee in the current UK tour of the critically acclaimed musical Seven Brides For Seven Brothers. This new production is directed and choreographed by Broadway’s award-winning Patti Colombo, described by The Wall Street Journal as “one of the finest musical comedy choreographers in the business”.
The 1954 movie musical, which received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, famously tells the story of Adam, the eldest of seven brothers living in the rural backwoods, who goes to town to get himself a wife. Convincing Milly to marry him that very same day, he forgets to mention he has six brothers – all living together in his cabin. Milly decides to reform the uncouth siblings, who are anxious to get wives of their own. Then, after reading about the Roman capture of the Sabine women, Adam has what he thinks is an inspired solution to his brothers’ loneliness– they will kidnap the women they want! Seven Brides For Seven Brothers is packed with 16 timeless classics penned by composer Gene de Paul and lyricist Johnny Mercer, including ‘Bless Your Beautiful Hide’, ‘Wonderful, Wonderful Day’, ‘When You’re in Love’ and Goin’ Courtin’ (new songs are by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn).
Despite being no stranger to the stage, the role of Adam still presented challenges for the Basingstoke-born actor. “This is my first serious leading man role,” he explains. “Adam is the man of the house, so stepping into a part like that is a challenge because the roles I have played until now have been younger. It’s a real chance to show people what I can do.”
And how was working with such an established talent as Patti Colombo? “She’s just incredible. Her work on the show is really something special, and watching the rest of the cast performing her amazing choreography is great. It’s certainly not to be missed.”
Attwater is sharing the stage with popular actress Helena Blackman, whose previous musical productions include Gypsy, The Wizard of Oz and South Pacific. Of his co-star, he enthuses: “Helena has an absolutely fantastic voice, and she has done a lot of great shows so working with her is great. The entire cast is amazing; they auditioned hundreds of people and found some incredibly talented individuals. Many of them are just starting out in the business and I can’t wait to see what they go on to do next.”
Attwater trained at the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts and from there went on to star in an assortment of musicals, including Tonight’s the Night, 20th Century Boy and Our Benny. After playing a small role in Hollyoaks, he became a household name as Leon Small in EastEnders: it proved to be a game changer for the 27 year old: “When I started on EastEnders my fellow cast member and mentor Cheryl Fergison (who played Heather Trott) told me that being on the show would change my life, but it wasn’t until I was standing in a petrol station filling up my car and I saw a man staring at me that I realised that it had. Things really changed when I took part in the ITV1 show Dancing On Ice (which he went on to win). People stopped seeing me as Leon from EastEnders and started to see the real me.”
After this he returned to the stage to take lead roles in Dreamboats and Petticoats and The Rocky Horror Show. Did he fear coming back to tread the boards once again?
“It’s a weird one,” he observes. “On EastEnders there might be ten million people watching your performance, but you have the chance to keep doing it until you get it right. With theatre you only have that one chance which can be scary, but that is also what makes it so exciting.”
Attwater has come a long way since leaving drama school, and has this advice for all those thinking about a career on the stage: “Work hard, never give up, and when that first pay packet comes in, don’t spend it all!”
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers continues its tour until 10 May 2014.