Given its outdated sexual politics, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Seven Brides for Seven Brothers would be an unusually regressive piece for the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre to stage. Instead, Rachel Kavanaugh’s production never takes itself too seriously, and charms the audience with its timeless songs in a beautiful setting.
When the eldest of seven brothers, Adam, goes to town looking to find a wife, he brings back Milly. Little does Milly know that she has been bought to serve as mother and wife to all six of his younger siblings. With Milly’s help, the brothers turn from scruffy, no-mannered boys into handsome, well-mannered men, and arrange a plan to kidnap and marry the women of the village.
Despite its slightly dated plot, the production is a real summer treat. The classic musical numbers including ‘Bless Your Beautiful Hide’ and ‘Goin’ Courtin’’ are staged with vibrant choreography by Alistair David, and are matched by the tightly formed harmonies and musical direction of Stephen Ridley.
The action regularly spills over from the stage into the audience as well, with our leading man, Adam (Alex Gaumond) bursting into the auditorium to deliver his opening number. Several chase sequences are led through the unsuspecting audience, much to our delight. Of our leading man, you can tell it is in Gaumond’s nature to lead a cast with his great voice and intense presence, making it all the more believable that Milly (the wonderfully talented Laura Pitt-Pulford) should fall for his mannish charms so easily.
The rest of the cast are given their chance to shine with the lavishly choreographed dance breaks and stage fights – the real highlight of the evening being the social dance that sees the brothers fight the townsfolk suitors their women are promised to, a mixture of balletic and folk dancing that matches the period perfectly.
The hidden orchestra are a joyful addition to the production, and whilst only on a temporary stage, the full expanse of Peter McKintosh’s set and costume design is realised as soon as the sun sets on the open air theatre and it becomes a real burst of colours and movement.
Despite it being a rather dated story, this production is an absolute charm to watch, despite the sexism that it is based on, and the beautiful Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre makes for a theatrical experience that should be at the top of every theatre-goer’s summer programme.
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is playing at The Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre until 29 August. For more information and tickets, see the Open Air Theatre website. Photo by Helen Maybanks.