It’s always a bit of a betting game booking open air theatre and it took me three times (third time lucky, they say) turning up to Regent’s Park to finally see Seven Brides for Seven Brothers all the way through, without it being rained off! The Open Air Theatre has a reputation for reviving classic musicals with aplomb and Rachel Kavanaugh’s adaptation of the hit MGM film is done with plenty of charm.
The musical tells the tale of some small town folk and some even more rural brothers. It’s an old fashioned romance, set in Oregon at the end of the 19th century, with a smattering of slightly vile misogyny thrown in. However, the catchy tunes and arresting dance numbers make for a quaintly entertaining production. It’s clear from peeking around the audience who has seen the original film – with toe tapping, whisperings along to the songs, and broad grins aplenty – but there are plenty of smiles among those who are new to the story too.
The opening number ‘Bless Your Beautiful Hide’ shows off Alex Gaumond’s beautiful voice, in the role of the folksy farmer Adam. He undergoes quite a transformation upon his arrival to town! The pairing with the delightfully gun-ho Milly (Laura Pitt-Pulford) becomes a hilarious battle of strong characters. After managing to whisk her away to his country chalet (i.e. farm shack) she is surprised to find she’s not just caring for the one man, but his whole band of brothers.
Thus we come to the other six brides. A fantastic show stopper of a number, Harvest Time, almost conceals the fact that the girls are essentially kidnapped from town (major instance of ‘consent’ being severely lacking). Of course, this is glazed over with smiles, dance steps and Gene de Paul’s beautiful score. And despite the slightly insidious plot it all ends very happily indeed.
Peter McKintosh’s costumes the girls in cutesy, pastel coloured dresses and the boys in rustic western leather and fringing. It couldn’t be more gender stereotypical if it tried. Aesthetically, it’s very pleasing and creates a lovely bucolic dream to escape in.
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre until 29 August 2015. View the website for further details and to book. Huge thanks to the London Theatre Bloggers for fun times in the rain and for arranging our tickets!