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Provo Canyon • Sometimes a theater production is a perfect match for its setting, which is the case with Sundance Summer Theatre/Utah Valley University's production of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers."
Sundance's outdoor stage with its mountain and forest backdrop is the ideal environment for this just-folks, down-home musical, and director Christopher Clark's energetic and inventive staging takes full advantage of the location.
Stephen Purdy's rustic set with its aspen trees, wooden cabin and storefront buildings flexibly opens up for indoor scenes and neatly folds away to provide space for the dance numbers. Clark positions characters on rooftops, in alcoves, and coming and going in the audience aisles to capture the constant activity of frontier life. One nicely orchestrated moment counterpoints the women inside Jaron Kent Hermansen's warmly lit cabin singing "We Gotta Make It Through the Winter" while the brothers outside chop wood and lament "Lonesome Polecat."
The story is based on the 1954 Stanley Donen film, which won accolades for its intricate dance numbers. In frontier Oregon, Adam, the oldest of seven brothers, acquires a wife, Milly, but fails to tell her about his six rowdy brothers. She manages to civilize the brothers, who fall in love with six young women in town and abduct them, inspired by Plutarch's story of Roman men who abducted neighboring Sabine women to be their wives. The women initially resist, but all ends well.
Choreographer Nathan Balser has duplicated some dance numbers from the film, especially at the town social, where the brothers compete with the locals for the women's attention, but adds numerous original flourishes. The ensemble dancing is lively, and if everyone isn't always in sync, that just adds to this production's spontaneous feel. Korianne Orton Johnson's musical direction keeps the singers harmoniously together, and Ronnie Bishop, Taylor Walker and Stacie Fleischer provide welcome live musical accompaniment.
Kevin Goertzen and Jenny Latimer are attractive and personable as Adam and Milly, and both have pleasant voices. From the start, Latimer's characterization suggests the underlying complexity of a woman who is "simple and sweet but sassy as can be." Goertzen's bull-in-a-china-shop Adam gains some softer edges as the play progresses. Their contrasting attitudes "Love comes and goes away; at heart, every girl is the same" as Adam sings, while Milly rejoins with "Love never goes away; it stays on like a song" become clear in one of the show's nicest songs and are eventually reconciled. Andrew Robertson's impulsive Gideon is also good in this number and stands out in the strong supporting ensemble.
Carla and Kristi Summers' period costumes look appropriately homespun and unsophisticated. The contrasting-color shirts for the brothers and the patchwork skirts for the women are nice touches.
While the script is a bit outdated and saccharine at times, "Seven Brides" is a good choice for Sundance, a show that the entire family can enjoy together. On opening night, the audience ranged from babes in arms to grandparents, and everyone seemed to be having a good time.
A brother act
Sundance's production of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" with its lively dancing and sweet singing provides perfect summer entertainment.
When • Reviewed July 23; plays Mondays and Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. through Aug. 18.
Where • Sundance Summer Theatre, Sundance Resort, 8841 N. Alpine Loop Road, Provo Canyon.
Tickets • $23 for bench seating, $20 for lawn seating, available at 866-734-4428; box dinners available at the theater.
Information • Visit http://www.sundanceresort.com.
Running time • Two hours and 15 minutes, including intermission.