Goin’ Courtin’ in the 21st Century: "Seven Brides" for Many Stages

Goin’ Courtin’ in the 21st Century: "Seven Brides" for Many Stages

"This is a happy, hand-clapping, foot-stomping country type of musical with all the slickness of a Broadway show," wrote Variety in 1953.

When it premiered in movie theaters, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers dazzled audiences with its frontier love stories and acrobatic choreography. It is a legendary contribution to the golden age of the movie musical.

With its mid-nineteenth century frontier setting, Seven Brides pairs a historic American period with an invigorating plot. Frustrated with having to care for her six brothers-in-law, Milly, a young newlywed, seeks to domesticate and tame them so they can find suitable matches. What she doesn't foresee is the brothers' kidnapping their prospective brides (with encouragement from her husband Adam), leading to mayhem and ultimately, romance.

A Surefire Hit

Transporting audiences to the old frontier, the film version of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was an immediate hit. Brilliantly revised by two-time Oscar-winners Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn, with new songs that add depth and dimension to the plot and characters, the stage version has become a perennial favorite, beloved by the many theaters and schools that have had the pleasure of producing it… in some cases, many times over.

For Wayne Bryan, artistic director at the Music Theatre Wichita, "Where Were You?" in particular is "a beautiful and powerful new composition which gives insight into Adam's hardscrabble upbringing, the loss of his parents, and the necessity of his growing up too early in order to take responsibility for his siblings." According to Bryan, the appeal of songs such as this, coupled with the relevance of the show's themes, make the show "a consistent blockbuster."

In Music Theatre Wichita's summer 2017 production, Bryan found that it truly was the women who propelled the show: "All the women in the piece, most especially the leading female character Milly, have strong ideas on how a partnership between the sexes should ideally work." In this watershed "time's up" moment in history, Bryan notes that it is the "men in the piece, including leading man Adam, [who] must learn harsh lessons and evolve into compassionate human beings."

Seven Brides has turned heads not only stateside, but across the pond as well. In a review of a production at Regent's Park in London, The Stage noted that although many Wild West musicals seem outdated, "Seven Brides breathes fresh life into them by maintaining the charm factor."

Iconic Choreography

The unusually athletic choreography in the film version of Seven Brides remains a hallmark in this stage version, continuing to thrill audiences time and time again. A longstanding classic scene, the Barn Raising Dance, is a constant audience favorite.

"This number challenges the choreographer and the performers to bring their best Olympic-quality moves to the stage, and always earns a rousing ovation," says Bryan. "There's a wonderful 'thrill factor' to the show's athleticism, since the performers must tell the story and execute exciting choreography 'in real time,' start to finish. Audiences can celebrate both the romanticism of a story well told, as well as the excitement of a live sporting event -- where anything can happen!"

"The six brothers and six wives truly shine during group dance numbers," wrote The Wichita Eagle in its review of Music Theatre Wichita's production, calling it "a treat for Wichita audiences".

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is a timeless delight for both audiences and the people putting it together, whether on a theater stage or in a high school auditorium.

Wayne Bryan sums it up: "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers uses the iconography of American musical theatre dance as a vehicle for communication and courtship, and as an expression of this country's energy and exuberance."

There's never been a better time to go courtin' - bring Seven Brides for Seven Brothers to your stage today!