LEHI — Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is one of those shows that Utahns love. It might be that classic musical feel, the fact that it is so family friendly, or even the large cast that it allows for. Whatever the reason, this is one show that seems to lend itself well to Utah theater companies. The recent production of Seven Brides by Lehi City Arts is one that doesn’t focus so much on the idea of a big Broadway spectacular, but feels more like a small community production of a classic show.
The basic plot of the show is fairly straightforward and more or less given away in the title. Adam is a mountain man that lives in a cabin with his brothers. He decides that he wants a wife, so he goes into town and gets one along with his other errands. Milly, the lucky lady Adam chooses, is shocked at the filthy and uncivil state of the cabin and the brothers who live there, and decides to teach them some manners. After this education, the other six boys (excluding Adam) decide that they want wives of their own. The plot continues as a comedic love story as the brothers try to woo their women of choice.
Lehi City Arts and director Kris Jennings took a fairly classic approach to this well-known story. The set, costumes, and props (designed by Jerry Hatch, Lynnea Kartchner, and Jean Hatch, respectively) all evoked the sense of a rustic frontier town. Though the quality of these elements was by no means spectacular, they were effective in giving us a sense of where the show took place and who the characters were. All these technical elements were effective, but not gaudy. I did have a special place in my heart for the set design, which was beautifully multipurpose with various locations being built on the backside of other locations. This meant that the transition from the town to the cabin involved the rotation and assembly of various smaller set pieces like something from IKEA, or Voltron. It was a great way to use what was already there and to create something that seemed to be built on a grand scale, but was really just a clever deception. I also loved the layout of the cabin set and the various playing areas that it allowed for. I just wish some of them had been used more than they were.
This show was fun to watch, and much of that was due to the great efforts of a diverse cast. Chuck Archer did fairly well as the gruff yet gentle Adam. Though there were some moments of nervous shifting and some missed notes, Archer did a great job of balancing both sides of Adam. He was able to show a convincingly sweet and innocent Adam who was just trying to figure out what to do with a wife, and yet he was also able to show a relatively hardened character who could fight and spit and so on. He was brilliantly complemented by Nicole Boulter, who played Milly. Boulter was one of the best casting decisions of this show. She had an extremely strong stage presence and a great voice. She brought a pitiable side to the character that made me root for her as she dealt with the antics of the brothers. Her songs were always engaging and she really was a leader for the rest of the cast.
However, one of the most enjoyable things to watch was the rapport that the brothers had with one another. Maybe I’m just thinking of my three older brothers, but the relationships that I saw on stage were very well developed even though the script didn’t necessarily give a lot of attention to the development of their relationships. I think that is something that speaks to the efforts of both Jennings’s direction and the actors themselves. I think one of the better performances from the brothers came from Jonathan Biesinger, who played Benjamin, the second oldest brother. Biesinger had great comedic timing and found ways to be creative within his role while still being a believable character.
One disappointment that I had in the characterization came from the limits of the script. While the actors playing the brides were fun to watch, I felt like these characters were underdeveloped. I really did love what was there and what the actors gave to the audience. They were funny and each actor tried to put a little personal flair on their character. Yet with the way that the script is written, the girls are treated less like decision making characters and more like props. There were some really funny moments, but I wish that the other six brides had the same depth that is allotted to Milly.
A couple other elements of this show that should be mentioned: The choreography, done by Jeanna Cunningham, was rather simple, but it was still fun. The dancing didn’t seem to be too complicated for an amateur cast, but still kept enough movement on stage to keep things interesting. The “Social Dance” scene was particularly fun to watch. While this seemed to borrow some from the film version, there were still some really great moments that highlighted different members of the cast and it was just fun to see. The musical numbers were fairly strong overall. I think the biggest downfall for the music came from the sound department. Only about half of the cast was miked, which caused for some problems during the songs. It can be really hard for an audience to switch between hearing the sound from the speakers to unsupported sound, and then back to the microphones again. This imbalance in the sound ruined parts of some songs for me.
The costuming was also a little inconsistent, though this, as well as the microphone issue, was probably due to the limited budget of the show. It seemed as if half of the costumes were provided by rental companies, while the other half were pulled from closets at home. While many in the cast did a good job finding appropriate costumes, some were really modern looking, and they stuck out. It was forgivable, but still apparent.
And as odd of a comment as it might be, I loved the program. The show’s stage manager, Nick Stone, took very professional looking headshots for every member of the cast, including the child actors. This was just a nice finishing touch and probably a great experience for some of those cast members who had never had a headshot done before.
As a whole, this production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is pretty typical community theater. It has some strong performances and some weak ones, it has some good tech elements and some that suffer a little, but overall it’s about the experience. These types of performances are for the large number of people who put in their actors’ bios “this is so-and-so’s second play ever,” or “So-and-so has loved the opportunity to work with his daughters on this show.” It really has so much to do with the building and strengthening of the community, that I feel all of the minor little flaws are easily overlooked. I would recommend going to see this, especially if you are from the Lehi area. It is worth supporting, and as long as you go with the proper mindset, you’ll have a great night.