Gender Politics On The Back Burner In Seven Brides For Seven Brothers

By Johnny Fox Last edited 107 months ago

Last Updated 26 July 2015

Gender Politics On The Back Burner In Seven Brides For Seven Brothers
Photo: Helen Maybanks

Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆

When backwoods trapper Adam Pontipee strides into the hay and feed store of a small Oregon town and asks “what’s the going rate for beaver?” he’s selling meat but actually hunting for a woman.

It might be original for its arithmetical multiplication but Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is part of that raft of American musicals in which girls in gingham frocks outsmart, but still go and marry, boorish men in boots and braces. From Oklahoma, Carousel, Annie Get Your Gun, Calamity Jane and Paint Your Wagon, to Regent’s Park’s own recent Crazy for You the plotlines, hoe-downs, barn-raisings, community picnics, fist fights and mid-century sexism almost never vary.

Productions typically skirt the darker themes of abduction and violence in favour of an explosion of dance and even if director Rachel Kavanaugh has missed a feminist trick, Alistair David’s choreography does the routines entirely proud. It’s quite Sadler’s Wells and when Laura Pitt-Pulford’s Milly first teaches the unkempt, unshaven Pontipee boys to dance she’s in danger of turning them from Hoxton hipsters into Brokeback balletomanes.

Pitt-Pulford is outstanding, by turns wry and forceful, she finds all the comedy in the character while making the romance feel genuine, and her effortlessly clean singing further cements her leading lady status. Canadian Alex Gaumond — one of the most versatile leading men, having been Miss Trunchbull in Matilda for a year and taking over from Rufus Hound in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels — is a fine choice for Adam, his elegant baritone lingering on the notes to soften the crassness of his caveman character and delivering real chemistry in both the spats and the clinches with Milly.

The opening standard Bless Your Beautiful Hide seems to go on for ever, and Adam and Milly blend perfectly in Love Never Goes Away, but there’s more fun in company numbers like You’ve Got to Make It Through the Winter where the blue-balled brothers nurse their frustrations in the bunkhouse. The stunning barn-raising number where planks are tossed in the air and flexing trestles danced on could also serve as a timely reminder that self-assembly of flat packs can be dangerous.

But whatever you do, don’t miss the encore. It’s pure Rocky Mountain Riverdance.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers continues at the Open Air Theatre Regent’s Park until 29 August. Tickets £25-£65. We saw this production with complimentary tickets and hospitality from The Corner Shop PR.