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Incline’s “Seven Brides and Seven Brothers” Full of Great Numbers

Review by Doug Iden of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”: Incline Theatre

It’s tricky to adapt an original classic, dance-oriented Hollywood musical to the theater, but Cincinnati Landmark Productions has succeeded admirably as “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” opened at the Warsaw Federal Incline Theater.  Based upon the movie and the Stephen Vincent Benet play “The Sobbin’ Women,” with music by Gene dePaul and lyrics by Johnny Mercer, “Seven Brides” relates how farmer Adam (Evan Koon) in the Oregon backwoods in the 1850’s sets about finding a bride. During Adam’s foray into town, he meets Milly (Katelyn Reid), who is a world-weary cook trying to serve dinner to a group of abusive, unruly townsmen.  Adam sweet-talks Milly into coming to his farm without bothering to tell her, to Milly’s chagrin, that he has six surly, unwashed brothers living in the farmhouse as well. 

Angry but undaunted, Milly resorts to her natural pluck and perseverance to make the best of the situation.  She initially disdains Adams’ advances but endeavors to help the brothers learn social graces so they can romance the young townswomen.  In the delightful dance and song, “Goin’ Courtin’”, Milly tries to teach dancing and good manners to the brothers Benjamin (Ryan-Chavez Richmond), Caleb (Nick Godfrey), Daniel (Jared Roper), Ephraim (Marco Colant), Frank (Kyle Taylor) and Gideon (Cian Steele).  Much of this story is told through dance.  This is not just dancing for the sake of dancing, but the plot is moved along through the choreography, here designed by Director/Choreographer Maggie Perrino.  The best example of this is the barn dance scene when the “now civilized” brothers try to compete with the young townsmen for the affections of the younger women.  In a competition reminiscent of the barn-raising scene in the original movie, the brothers and the townsmen compete with each other by trying to out-dance each other while trying to impress the women.  The dancing in this number and the “Goin’ Courtin’” scene is very good with a combination of ballet, square dancing and tumbling.  This is a large cast with 25 actors, most of whom are dancing in this scene.  The brothers make a good impression on the women–Dorcas (Ally Davis), Ruth (Kate Stark), Liza (Emma Moss), Martha (Renee Stoltzfus), Sarah (Ria Villaver Collins) and Alice (Sara Cox)–but go home alone.  The ensemble singing and dancing is very good. 

Later, the brothers, instigated by Adam, kidnap the women and take them to their wilderness home.  An avalanche blocks the pass so the townspeople can not rescue the women until spring.  Milly steps in and demands that the women stay in the house with the brothers in the barn.  As winter progresses towards spring, a legitimate courtship begins to transpire.

A major theme of the show is the classic conflict between a civilized but corrupted town versus the free and open wilderness coupled with the gradual development of a family. 

Many of the songs from the movie are included but some have been added to accommodate the normal complement of Broadway songs in a show.  The additional songs are written by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn which helps move the story along.  The new song “Love Never Goes Away” is effective as a trio between Adam, who thinks that all women are the same, Gideon who is pining for his Alice and Milly who is appalled by Adam’s sentiment but is clearly in love with her husband.  Koons has a good baritone voice and Gideon sings well but the star is Reid who has an excellent voice, good dancing steps and is very believable as the hurt but determined woman who becomes the matriarch of the family.

Another excellent scene merges original song “Lonesome Polecat” with new song “We Gotta Make it Through the Winter” sung and danced by the frustrated brothers, still mooning over their girlfriends.

The set is pure backwoods, western Americana.  Brett Bowling designed a basic set which shows the inside of the log cabin house with an upstairs bedroom.  Through the upstairs windows, you can see a projection of the mountains.  Evergreens, wooden benches and chopping blocks grace both sides of the stage.  Props including axes, pitchforks and rifles.  Additionally, there are a number of movable set-pieces which represent wooden walls and doors through which the actors continually move.

Imagine designing and creating costumes for 25 actors, which was the role of Caren Brady and her staff.  The costumes run the gamut from pioneer work-clothes to sleeping apparel to fancy dress (in pioneer fashion) to wedding garb. 

Overall, this is a fun show and a good adaptation of one of my favorite movie musicals.  I must give the Incline staff credit because, between this show and “Pippin”, they have stretched themselves with challenging dance and musical numbers.  A good crowd on opening night seemed very appreciative.

So, take an enjoyable, fun-filled trek into the Oregon wilderness with the delightful “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” which continues at the Incline Theater through September 8.
Tickets are available at
https://www.cincinnatilandmarkproductions.com/Incline/