Thursday, 6 February 2014

Musical: Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (4 Stars)

Yesterday evening was my first ever visit to the live performance of a musical. I'd already seen this musical on film, but seeing it on the stage overwhelmed me. The colours, the songs, the dancing, the smiling faces, it was an unmissable atmosphere.

The story is very simple. Not much story is needed, it's all about the music. Adam is a hunter and trapper who lives in the mountains of Oregon. He goes down to the to the nearest town to find himself a wife. He sees Milly, the waitress in a restaurant, and after rescuing her from drunken customers she decides to marry him after only knowing him for five minutes. He takes her back to his hut, and she is shocked to find he lives with his six brothers, Benjamin, Caleb, Daniel, Ephraim, Frank and Gideon. It seems like his parents wanted 26 children, but they never got that far. Milly is distressed having to look after all seven uncouth brothers, so she teaches them good manners and how to dance so that they can go to the town and find their own wives.

Courting isn't as easy as the boys think. They set their eyes on six beautiful young women, but they return empty-handed because they have to compete with the local boys and get into a fight. Adam tells them that courting is useless, if they want women they should just go back to the town and grab them. Which they do. Some of the girls are knocked unconscious, while the rest are carried away kicking and screaming. They return to the cabin just before the pass is blocked by snow for the winter.

At first the girls are distressed. Milly looks after them in the house and makes the boys sleep in the barn. But as the winter progresses they fall in love with the six brothers.

Let's stop there. This is the only reason I won't give the musical a higher rating. It's a very anti-feminist story. Of course, I know it's a comedy, I know it's quaint, but it still gives a message that I strongly disagree with. Men should be real men and take women against their will, because that's what women really want, even though they don't admit it. Not even Milly's stance as a strong woman ruling over the household can cancel out the pervasive gender roles taught in the musical.

Nevertheless, it was an outstanding performance, in particular from the leading actors/singers, Alex Hammond and Helena Blackman. Alex, 23, is a local boy from Kings Heath, Birmingham, so he received special appreciation from the home crowd. Alex was originally cast as one of the townspeople, but after the leading man became sick he was catapulted into the centre stage. A brilliant performance.

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