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Center Stage: Easy to see why this show is a hit

By Staff | Apr 22, 2015

Will Prather’s touring production of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” made Fort Myers its final stop on its successful national jaunt across country. Without a doubt it is easy to see why this production was such a triumph.

Here are my seven reasons/GREAT:

1. Dancing, choreography (Kerry Lambert) and direction (Dean Sobon).

2. Singing.

3. Ensemble and feature players.

4. Leading players, (Milly/Kate Marshall, Adam/Justun Hart).

5. Sets (Dominic Lau).

6. Costumes (John P. White).

7. Book based on MGM Film and “The Sobbin Women” by Stephen Vincent Benet.

Let me tell you those are seven of the best reasons for seeing this blockbuster show that will be in residence at the Broadway Palm only till May 23.

This show started out as a 1950s blockbuster Hollywood movie musical based on Stephen Vincent Benet’s 1928 short story and morphed into this classic Hollywood musical. Like the movie, which featured Michael Kidd’s strong, athletic choreography as its centerpiece, this live production also features rock solid dancing by choreographer Kerry Lambert as its pivotal motif. I’ve seen other productions of this movie musical transferred to the live theater fail because the Kidd choreography is so challenging (Kidd was able to entice the very top of the line male and female dancers from ballet companies, Broadway, TV and movies to work on this film).

Fortunately, choreographer Lambert’s and director Sobon’s talent and know-how worked magic in casting, training and guiding this multi-talented cast to make the transition perfectly.

Benet’s original story plot is neat and simply told without taxing the little gray cells too much. The plot is set in the backwoods of Oregon in the 1850s where the seven Pontipee brothers are hankerin’ for seven strong, purdy, wimmen to cook, clean, fetch, and maybe give the fellas a little lovin’ on the side. These lonesome, grubby “polecats” can’t even compete with the duded up “townsmen” also hankering after the few available single girls living there (this is way before match.com). Long story short, the six single hankerin guys decide to kidnap their girls and haul ’em up the mountainside. How do the six wimmen react? Simple, they fall in love with their captors, of course. After all this is a light-hearted musical!

Adam (ruggedly handsome and mighty talented Justun Hart), the oldest of the Pontipee gang, gets his girl first when he goes to town to pick up vittles and a bride, the feisty Milly (versatile, purdy and gifted Kate Marshall). Milly says “I do” faster than you can say “are you out of your mind”? After which Milly sets out to put the lives of the six Pontipees on matrimonial track.

Yup, the story is that simple and as corny as “Kansas in August,” and the comedy is just as broad. But “Seven Brides” is a rootin tootin grand show that puts a smile on the audience’s faces, as well as giving us all a “hellova” swell time. The show is clean and the songs and humor sparkle, as does the lighting, scenery and costumes.

This is one of those family shows that has a winning cast that puts out so much zip and zing in all they do that you can’t help but be kidnapped and captivated by its charm.

Headlining this show is the fetching South Dakota native Kate Marshall, who wins the day as well as the audience as the strong, sympatric, spirited Milly who civilizes the passel of brothers in the arts of manners, dancing, prancing and romancing. Her singing was terrific as was her dancing, and she brought down the house with her rendition of “Glad You Were Born” and “Goin’ Courtin’.” Equally strong was Justun Hart as Adam, his strong voice, confident swagger, rugged good looks all serve him well in giving this show a really professional touch of magic.

The brothers are an appealing, rollikin’, rockin’ n rollin’ bunch, tumbling and dancing about with uninhibited zest, vim and vigor.

Here are their names:

* Caleb/Carver Duncan

* Daniel/Matt Casey

* Ephraim/ Ben Cramer

* Frank (short for frankincense)/Will Leonard

* Gideon/Max King.

I would be remiss if I didn’t single out this actor/singer/dancer and youngest of the Pontipee brother. King played his character with a sweet kind of “aw-shucks” ebullience. He stole the heart of the audience with his winsome trio rendition of “Love Never Goes Away” along with Marshall and Hart.

The brides were:

* Ruth/Danielle Barnes

* Martha/Avery Bryce Epstein

* Liza/Kelsey Beckert

* Dorcas/Diane Huber

* Sarah/Corinne Munsch

* Alice/Kiersten Romilys Benzing

These roles may get short shrift in terms of stage time and character development, but these young women played their roles to the hilt with wit, style and pizazz.

“Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” is a great family show and one you might want to consider bringing your teens and pre-teens to introduce them to the world of live musical comedy. There is enough high jinx happenings, mixed up with just a dash of romance, to keep everybody interested, and just think of all that rough and tumble dancing. Well, I think you get the picture.

So if a big, bright, sassy, brash, old fashioned American musical comedy is your bailiwick, then “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” is the show for you. Start by calling the box office at (239)278-4422.

And when you phone, remind ’em Marsha sent ya’ll.