Maine State Music Theatre is “goin’ courtin’ ” with its latest production, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” And the high-stepping romantic comedy is quite the charmer.
The production, directed and choreographed by Patti Colombo, began its courtship with the audience Thursday even before the first musical note. Trees peeked through a semi-transparent Oregon Trail map, seeming to whisper about the wonders in store.
The allure was instant. And, once the curtain rose, the audience had no option but to fall head-over-heels in love.
A mesmerizing painted forest filled the stage as a lone fiddler, Silas Moores, recounted the hardships of 1850s Oregon. The life stories grew as the ensemble of townsfolk joined him with tales of their own. Then, like magic, the trees parted and a rustic town glided into place as Adam Pontipee, played by Jarid Faubel, sauntered into their lives, and into the hearts of the audience.
Faubel is simultaneously dashing and naively uncouth as the oldest of the Pontipee brothers. With ruggedly handsome looks and a boyish grin, it’s easy to believe he could effortlessly persuade a woman to marry him in a matter of minutes. But, it’s Faubel’s self-deprecating sense of humor that ultimately endears him to the audience.
Heidi Kettenring is fabulously paired with Faubel as his feisty wife, Milly. There’s no doubt that she could tame seven brothers. And, like Faubel, she has a knack for adding just the right amount of comedy. It usually took just a well-timed look Thursday for her to send laughter through the audience.
Both Kettenring and Faubel are strong vocalists. Kettenring was a powerhouse on “I Married Seven Brothers,” and Faubel’s deep, resonating vocals tugged at the audience’s heartstrings on “Where Were You?”
“Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” at heart, is a sweet funny story. But, the first thing that usually leaps to mind about the musical is the awe-inspiring dance numbers. Maine State Music Theatre’s rendition surpasses expectations.
Colombo’s choreography is executed flawlessly with grace and vitality. Karl Warden leads the sensational dancers as dance captain, associate director and associate choreographer. Astoundingly, he also plays as the second oldest Pontipee brother, Benjamin.
Carson Twitchell, J. Morgan White, Michael R. Clement, Eric Sciotto and Alex Larson round out the cast of brothers as Caleb, Daniel, Ephraim, Frank and Gideon. They are all wonderfully quirky and multi-talented. They undergo a fun transformation in “Goin’ Courtin’,” but it’s “The Challenge Dance” that leaves you breathless.
The high-energy number is a visual feast with the brothers, the brides-to-be and their town suitors executing a dizzying combination of dance and acrobatics.
Edward Andrew Lawrence and Eric Shorey are the epitome of agility as two of the town suitors, Joel and Jeb.
“Spring, Spring, Spring” is another beautifully performed dance number. It showcases the six younger brothers and their vibrant brides, played by Merrill West, Shanna Heverly, Samantha Hewes, Sarah Marie Jenkins, Jessica Lawyer and Tara Lynn Steele.
“Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” is a dancing extravaganza that is guaranteed to put a spring in your step and a smile on your face. It’s packed with humor and heart. And, with 27 immensely talented performers filling the stage, it’s a production that could be seen multiple times and still offer something new each time.