Review: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at the Bristol Hippodrome

First published in Theatre Gazette Series: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Yate, Chipping Sodbury, Winterbourne, Frampton Cotterell, Rangeworthy, Wickwar, Hawkesbury, Iron Acton, Coalpit Heath and Old Sodbury

THE American west is brought to life in Bristol this week with an energetic and toe-tapping production of much-loved musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

Featuring Gene de Paul and Johnny Mercer’s infamous score, including Bless Your Beautiful Hide, Wonderful Wonderful Day and Goin’ Courtin’, this new version of the 1954 film is full of life thanks to a young cast of talented singers, dancers and acrobats.

Set during the Oregon Trail of the 1840s, it tells the story of Adam Pontipee (Sam Attwater), who heads to town in need of a wife. There he quickly finds and proposes to Milly (Helena Blackman), conveniently forgetting to tell his betrothed of his six wild brothers. He takes her to their secluded woodcutters’ home whereon Milly tries to teach the unruly boys some manners in the hope of finding them each a wife of their own.

As well as impressive moving sets showing Oregon’s stunning scenery, period costumes and a great orchestra, the show includes a number of fast and furious dance routines particularly the dance social at the end of Act One when the brothers compete with six townsmen for the affections of six pretty young ladies.

Just as the film became renowned for the clever footwork of choreographer Michael Kidd, so too will this production under the direction of Patti Colombo who combines directing and choreographing the complicated but fun dance routines.

All six of the wifeless brothers are given distinct characters from young Gideon (Jack Greaves) and his inexperiences of love to the crass and comic Frank (Sam Stones). Their scenes are undoubtedly the most enjoyable and funny – six strapping boys trying to learn to dance wrapped in nothing more than a blanket certainly had the ladies’ attention at Tuesday’s performance!

Helena Blackman is radiant as the motherly figure who teaches these uneducated men some lessons in etiquette. As runner up in BBC 1’s How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, her strong vocals shine through in all the company numbers and in her songs Love Never Goes Away, Glad That You Were Born and We Gotta Make it Through the Winter.

Sadly, Sam Attwater was not up to such high standards. Whether his participation in the current final series of Dancing on Ice is taking its toll on the former Hollyoaks and Eastenders actor’s voice is not known, but the young star did Tweet a picture on a collection of cough medicines on Wednesday saying his voice 'needed time to heal’.

Although his stage presence helped make up for it, the limitations in his voice were very noticeable at the opening night in Bristol and he himself seemed only too aware he wasn’t going to reach all the high notes, particularly in his solos Where Were You and Am I Stubborn?.

Fortunately for him, that is not what Tuesday’s show will be remembered for. Rather it was the technical problems in the first half which led to the performance being stopped twice.

Whatever the sound difficulties were, the cast were truly professional and picked themselves for the second half which had an animated audience clapping along with gusto.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is on at the Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday, January 18.

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