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Stage review: Seven times the fun with 'Seven Brides'

By Blair Howell

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, July 23 2012 5:38 p.m. MDT

The cast of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" performs on the Eccles Outdoor Stage at the Sundance Resort.

Jed Wells, Sundance Resort/UVU

Enlarge photo»

“SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS,” Utah Valley University-Sundance Resort, Eccles Outdoor Stage, through Aug. 18 at 8 p.m., $23-$20, sundanceresort.com or 877-831-6224

SUNDANCE — In “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” new bride Millie blissfully sings “Wonderful, Wonderful Day” just after getting hitched to Oregon Trail woodsman Adam Pontipee. But the lyrics can dang near describe the musical now playing on the Eccles Outdoor Stage.

Utah Valley University-Sundance Resort’s “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” is beautiful, glorious, heavenly, marvelous, wonderful, wonderful.

As written, the stage incarnation is an uneven adaptation of the beloved 1954 MGM film, but the staging, choreography and performances in this production are evenly excellent.

To provide some upfront history, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” took a circuitous route to the stage. With only seven songs written for the film, Broadway director Lawrence Kasha turned to his younger brother, Al Kasha, to help develop new songs, with a baker’s dozen inserted and discarded at various points. The final additions are not memorable and don’t add character insight. And why two of the original corny-charming Gene de Paul-Johnny Mercer songs (“When You’re in Love” and “June Bride”) were excluded remains a mystery. The show failed in New York but has rebounded in regional productions.

With direction by Christopher Clark and high-stepping choreography by Nathan Balser, the entire cast gets down to work to entertain the audience — and Clark, Balser and company create an enjoyable, lighthearted musical frolic.

Jenny Latimer, in Utah following her role as Cosette in the national tour in “Les Miserables,” makes a delightfully spunky, endearing Millie, the town waitress-washerwoman who Adam woos and weds within minutes of their meeting. Latimer has a sweet, full voice, and it’s easy to see why Adam and her other suitors in the Oregon shanty town fall head-over-heels in love.

As Adam, Kevin K. Goertzen has a big, booming baritone voice and takes full command from first entrance. All that’s missing is some of the twinkle-eyed magnetism beneath Adam's gruff exterior. The players in the roles of eldest brother's six siblings, with biblical names in alphabetic sequence, are able to project distinct personalities never hinted at in the script. They add much to the show’s exuberant spirit and merit individual recognition for their strengths: Patrick Kintz, Benjamin; Joshua Sackett, Caleb; Benjamin Roeling, Daniel; Josh Valdez, Ephraim; Ben Jarvis, Frankincense (sorry, Frank); and Andrew Robertson, naively sweet as Gideon.

The seven brides and 10 townsfolk complete the large cast, and the ensemble dancing — that includes a thick forest of cartwheels, handstands, ax-jumping, tumbling and acrobatic-gymnastic moves — is executed with vigor and skill.

Stephen Purdy’s detailed stage design, comprising movable pieces for the town and the Pontipee cabin, provides a nice lumber-and-mountains setting, with the Sundance woodlands augmenting the audience’s Oregon Trail vista. The only kink of the show is the wobbly live accompaniment of the four-piece band.

In the creative hands of UVU and Sundance, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” is seven times the fun of the boy-meets-girl musical.

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