KAYSVILLE — Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was the first musical I ever performed in, so it will always hold a special place in my heart. Attending opening night at Hopebox Theatre accompanied by my son felt like a cherished reunion with an old friend. This production captures the essence of the beloved classic while adding a fresh, fun take on a timeless tale of love on the Western frontier. With strong singing and dancing, this rendition of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers perfectly aligns with the theater’s mission to “bring hope and light into the lives of those who are battling dark times” by offering a warm and lighthearted evening.

The musical is based on the 1954 film, with a book by Lawrence Kasha and David Landay, music by Gene de Paul, lyrics by Johnny Mercer, and additional songs by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn. It’s set in 1850s Oregon and follows the story of Adam Pontipee, eldest brother of the Pontipee family, a rugged mountain man seeking a bride. After a whirlwind, five-minute courtship, he marries Milly Bradon and brings her home to his remote cabin, where she discovers that he has six unruly brothers. She helps to civilize them so they too can be “goin’ courtin’” in town and find their own wives.

Director Leslie Richards is keenly aware that certain parts of the script are not aging well as they highlight negative aspects of traditional masculinity. With this in mind, Richards’ direction keeps all the relationships warm and mutually agreed upon. Adam (Spencer Mack) rolls into town with a smile and gentle tenor vocals. He spots Milly (Anna Peacock) and falls in love with her beauty, cooking, and sassy personality. I enjoyed the warm relationship between the two leads. Peacock doesn’t even come past Mack’s shoulder, but her pint-sized stature makes her command of the men around her even more fun to watch, like when she smacks Adam’s behind and flashes a wicked grin, or when she takes the brother’s underwear for washing and teaches them about “Goin’ Courtin’” while they try to keep their blankets wrapped around themselves. Richards uses all the space in the theater to its best advantage, especially during the last farce scene when couples chase each other on and off stage in all directions. One of my favorite moments came during “We Gotta Make It Through the Winter” when the brothers are banished outside the house and the girls’ dresses are hung on a line outside to dry. The brothers end up using those dresses during a kick line that had the audience in stitches.

Photo credit: Hopebox Theatre

The only place I didn’t enjoy Richards’ direction was during Adam’s song “Where Were You?” The song is about Adam’s feelings of betrayal and abandonment and his struggle being the leader of a family in their harsh world. Adam’s character normally exudes toxic masculinity, but Richards’ direction softens this considerably, which works well for most of the show, but takes away from Adam’s moment where he explains that he is so hard because the world has been so hard on him. Mack’s warm performance is nice, but smoothing out Adam’s rough edges left this particular moment a little flat. However, with a kind grin, nice voice, and impressive heel clicks, this is one of the best renditions of Adam Pontipee I have seen.

Peacock’s Milly has a folksy performance that matches the musical’s setting. Her vocals are lovely and her stage presence is enjoyable in solos like “I Married Seven Brothers,” but even more so when she plays off other actors, especially the brothers. Her songs are fun and, being so small, it is fun to watch the boys toss her one minute, then cower from her the next. One of the strongest elements of this production are the perfectly balanced harmonies and vocal blend of the ensemble, directed by music director Terresa Shreve.

Choreographer Ginny Spencer’s interpretation is dynamic, reminiscent of Michael Kidd’s style in the movie. With the added challenge of having to fit 18 dancers on a small stage for numbers like the “Challenge Dance,” Spencer’s lively choreography incorporates various styles and intricate partner work with lifts that highlight character relationships. There were a few instances of dancers falling out of sync, but overall the dancing enhances the storytelling and adds infectious energy and charm.

Photo credit: Hopebox Theatre

Likewise, the fight choreography by Garrett Stephenson was fun with lots of moments where the brothers’ tendency to break out into a brawl makes the audience laugh. From the moment Milly meets the brothers, they start to fight and her overwhelmed reaction makes the fight play out in slow motion.

Each brother has a fun personality to accompany their vocal and dance talent. Frank (Stephenson) is sensitive about his name and comedic with excellent fight choreography. Daniel (Nathan Spackman) and Ephraim (Lance McDaniel) have an ongoing schtick where their girls cross back and forth in an attempt to stay with the right girl. The baby of the Pontipee family, Gideon (Jace Fawcett), has a sweetness to his voice and his bashful chemistry with Alice (Dusti Mulder) make their interactions cute.

The set design by Matthew Seguine is appropriately minimal as it often just needs to stay out of the way given the number of actors in each scene. Costume design by Torrey Woolsey does a good job of coordinating which bride will end up with which brother, which is helpful with such a large ensemble.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is a musical theatre darling, and I think that everyone should see it at some point in their life. The skillful direction of this production highlights the best parts of the show, and the whole ensemble showcases strong vocals and harmonies while executing dynamic choreography. Overall, Hopebox delivers an uplifting visual feast; I am happy I was able to share this particular production with my son and recommend it to patrons of all ages for a “Wonderful Day.”

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers plays various days at 7:30 PM through April 27 with some Saturday matinees at 2pm at the Hopebox Theatre, 1700 S Frontage Road, Kaysville, Utah 84037. Tickets are $16-22. For more information see https://www.hopeboxtheatre.com/