Lift a cool beverage toast to Mac-Haydn’s 40th. Lynne Haydn, who’s still at the helm, and the late Linda MacNish founded this summer stock company that is a training ground for talented young performers.
Right now they’re cavorting in a superb production of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.”
‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’
WHERE: Mac-Haydn Theatre, Rte. 203, Chatham
WHEN: through June 15
HOW MUCH: $28-$26; $12 for children under 12
MORE INFO: 392-9292
First honors go to choreographer Kelly L. Shook, as they should in a show that was originally directed by dancemeister Stanley Donen and choreographed by Michael Kidd. Shook has imaginatively staged the large production numbers, most notably one at the social, where the excellent ensemble seamlessly dances the humor and tension between the Pontipee boys and the townspeople. Not only are there no collisions on Mac-Haydn’s small stage-in-the-round, but the exuberance with which the cast kicks, lifts, spins, and brawls is remarkable.
At the heart of the conflict are Milly (Karla Shook) and Adam Pontipee (Rob Richardson), she a hardworking young gal, and he the oldest of seven Oregon backwoods brothers. On his semi-annual visit to town, he courts her in minutes and takes her back to the farm, where, unbeknownst to her, await six unscrubbed and ill-mannered sibs. Her attempts to teach them etiquette in a hilarious breakfast-table scene is sweetly reminiscent of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”
However, when Adam suggests that the brothers marry the young village women by abducting them from their beaux, Milly becomes furious and the story turns dark. Adam, charming but ignorant and sexist, must atone for his advice; when his daughter is born, he realizes the violence of his plan. After one or two more twists of the plot, the exasperated preacher (Ron Haber) marries them all in one fell swoop.
The quality of the production is evident from the opening number, “Bless Your Beautiful Hide,” delivered by Richardson in a big, rich baritone. Elsewhere, this solid singer scores in the dramatic “A Woman Ought to Know Her Place” and the fast-talkin’ “Sobbin’ Women.”
Karla Shook is the gold standard of Mac-Haydn performers. She can dance with the ensemble, as in “Goin’ Courtin’ ”; reveal character in a song (“Love Never Goes Away”); and mine the irony of the moment with a raised eyebrow. Under Joseph Patton’s sharp direction, she and Richardson find each scene’s internal beat. Indeed, Patton has taught everyone how to begin again believably after every blackout: no deer in the headlights!
Adam Corcoran, as Gideon, is a standout, shining in the powerful trio “Love Never Goes Away,” and Brittany Leslie is a darling Alice.
Because of the instrumentation, the overture sounds thin, but Josh Zecher-Ross and his bandmates are aces elsewhere providing continuity or accompaniment. Tirza Chappel’s costumes are period perfect.
One reservation: The Rip Taylor depiction of Mr. Perkins is distracting and insulting. Lose it.
But the rest of this show is unerring. Happy Ruby Jubilee!