Seven Brides For Seven Brothers – Regents Park’s Open Air Theatre

Alex Gaumond and Laura Pitt-Pulford in Seven brides F

Alex Gaumond and Laura Pitt-Pulford in Seven Brides For Seven Brothers at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London. Picture: Roy Tan

Seven Brides For Seven Brothers continues at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre until 29 August.

Star rating: 5 stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The story of the seven Pontipee brothers’ search for wives in rural 19th century Oregon worked in the iconic 1954 MGM film and it works extremely well here too because it contains so many basic plot elements. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves meets The Taming of the Shrew meets The Sound of Music among other things. Add memorable songs, fully drawn characters and a highly talented cast to the mix and you’re onto a winner.

Alex Gaumond as Adam Pontipee saunters, singing, into town and captivates Laura Pitt-Pulford as Milly. He is charismatic and oozes macho appeal. She has nothing to lose and agrees to marry him – not initially knowing that he has six uncouth, needy brothers on his farm. Inevitably, they eventually get their hands of six more wives, although the path of true love does not initially run smoothly of course.

Gaumond is outstanding. He sings with insouciance – and passion – and is forceful and funny as well as moving in Act II when he finally apologises to Milly. Pitt-Pulford finds all the requisite feistiness and determination as well as vulnerability in Milly. And she sings with great feeling. Both leads are complex characters and the work by both actors is satisfyingly convincing.

But the most impressive thing in the piece is probably the dance sequences choreographed by Alistair David. Many of the cast are performers whose first discipline is dance and the whole show fizzes with energy and colour right through to the stunning post-curtain call coda. The ten-piece band, wind instruments glinting in the twilight, is just visible through the trees under Gareth Valentine’s direction, and it does exuberant justice to all those glorious, catchy tunes including some new songs by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn.

Special mention must go to set and costume designer Peter McKintosh too. His two hillbilly wooden buildings, one of which coverts and slides into a different position, sit on a big triangular thrust, the apex of which points into the centre of the audience and provides space for long lines in the dances spiced with impressive leaps and back flips. And it’s a neat touch to put the six couples in co-ordinating outfits as their relationships settle.

Director Rachel Kavanaugh’s compelling, enjoyable, foot-tapping show exudes quality and panache and it deserves a life beyond its few weeks in the park. I smiled until my face ached. But it’s a lot more than a romp. It’s also wryly funny and often poignant.

Susan Elkin

www.openairtheatre.com

Readers may also be interested in:

Seven Brides For Seven Brothers at Regent’s Park – check out new production images and a teaser of the cast recording! – News

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