Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Book by Lawrence Kasha and David Landay, music by Gene de Paul, Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn, lyrics by Johnny Mercer, Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn
New Wimbledon Theatre, The Broadway, Wimbledon, London SW19 1QG
For those who don't know it, this stageshow has enjoyed a colourful history, first as an MGM movie musical, when that genre was in its heyday, before that a short story that was essentially an American West rewriting of the Roman Legend of The Sabine Women, and later to become one of the most popular and beloved film musicals of all time. And although it has been brought to the stage on the American side of the Atlantic, it seems to have enjoyed more success here. Probably for good reason.
It presents us with a vibrant, larger than life, wholesome America, an ideal America, an America that is tinged with nostalgia, but possibly never existed, not in the glorious god-fearing way that it appears on stage in this story. For the British, it shows off the best of our nature, the rugged individualist who is, at heart, a diamond in the rough, a charming individual with spunk and spirit. For us expats, it represents an ossified picture of ourselves from some bygone past that is pleasant to remember and think about, even if a little indulgent.
And it is a portrait of joyous, buoyant Oregon, teeming with life and vitality, presented with gusto in this production. Don't be fooled by the star billing. Sam Attwater, of Eastenders and Hollyoaks fame, is generally agreeable and seemed to be what certain contingent of the audience were waiting for, but felt a bit more Ronan Keating than Gene Kelly and this show could use a little less nasal boyband star, a little more Broadway. Helena Blackman, of Lloyd Webber vehicle How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, was very good, excellent even, but not extraordinary. And by the second act, the story of the romance between Adam the frontiersman and Milly the sassy, barmaid-turned-homemaker starts to wear and feel a bit wet.
The bad news is that accents are inconsistent – ranging unconvincingly from On The Waterfront to Of Mice and Men – and it's unclear whether there is or is not a tacit endorsement of blatant chauvinism. But if you squint your eyes and don't look too hard for authenticity, you'll find some genuine warmth in this technicolor extravaganza.
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