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Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

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MGM's critically acclaimed 1954 film Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is frequently mentioned as one of the finest musicals of all times. Starring Howard Keel and Jane Powell, it featured Michael Kidd's choreography, arguably some of the most exciting to date. It is no surprise that a stage production would follow. In 1979, after a successful national tour, it played on Broadway and failed to attract an audience. In 2005 and 2007 it was revised again and has become this successful vehicle for national tours.

Loosely based on Stephen Vincent Benet's short story "The Sobbin' Women," which derived from the Roman legend of the Rape of the Sabine Women, it contemporizes the story to the days of the 1850s in Oregon. Adam Pontipee (Kevin Earley), a rugged frontiersman, comes down from the mountain to get supplies and to look for a wife. He spots Milly (Beth Malone), a waitress in a boardinghouse. She meets his specifications, and they agree to marry. When she arrives at his cabin, she learns that he has six other brothers all living together. They are rough and crude, and it becomes her mission to civilize them so they can find wives of their own.

Earley and Malone are a great match, both with fine voices and an easy manner that makes their romance believable. The brothers are played by Keith A. Bearden, Karl Warden, Carson Twitchell, Eric Stretch, Brian Steven Shaw, and Neil Starkenberg, and their exceptional talents go a long way toward making the show a success.

Not to be outshown, however, are the girls of the town who take a liking to these handsome brothers. The girls are played with much charm by Kim Arnett, Heidi Buehler, Ashley Anderson McCarthy, Tro Shaw, Hannah Simmons, and Kim Taylor.

The suitors for the girls from town are also outstanding dancers, and their matchups to the Pontipee brothers make for some showstopping moments. They are played by Scott Frausto, Ethan Le Phong, Melvin Ramsey, Tanner Richins, Andrew Wilson, and Armando Yearwood, Jr.

Though much of the music is from the original film by Saul Chaplin and Gene de Paul with lyrics by Johnny Mercer, effective new songs were written for the revival by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn. Milly's "I Married Seven Brothers" and Earley, Malone, and Starkenberg's "Love Never Goes Away" are lovely interludes.

Musical director Dennis Castellano and orchestra give the production a Broadway feel that is exhilarating. Tom Ruzika's lighting combined with Josh Bessom's sound design also enhance the big production numbers.

The story is engaging, the actors talented, and the music delightful, but unequivocally the most successful feature of the show is the artful, energetic, and energizing dance numbers choreographed by Patti Colombo. In a barn raising sequence, the male dancers face of and outdo each other's virility. The women, too, are well trained and full of grace.

Not to be left out of kudos is director Glenn Casale. His long experience and deft handling of the challenging musical numbers enliven the production and elicit superior drama, humor, and cohesiveness necessary for this show.

McCoy Rigby Entertainment, it should be noted, brings a strong commitment to delivering fine theater with high production values. This show is a notable example of how fine performances and a strong creative team can deliver a show worth seeing.

 

Spotlight

Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.