Review: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Open Air Theatre

“Secretly they was overjoyed”

Rachel Kavanaugh’s glorious take on The Sound of Music two years ago for the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park was a wonderful thing indeed so it is little surprise to see her welcomed back to this venue to tackle another Golden Age classic, this time Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. It’s a canny decision as her familiarity with the space shows, utterly unafraid to use its full width and depth for unexpected arrivals, slow reveals and thrilling chase sequences and of course, the coup de théâtre that is the pinnacle of Peter McKintosh’s design which is a real piece of old-fashioned theatre magic.

Kavanaugh also makes small but pointed attempts to address the dubious gender politics of the show, without ever sacrificing the spirit of fun that should always characterise such classic musical theatre. So from the first moment Adam and Milly clap eyes on each other, there’s no doubting that the erotic charge between them is mutual, her lustful glances perhaps even more overt than his. And the strength of Laura Pitt-Pulford’s performance is that she never lets us forget she’s a woman making her own choices, even if its just making the best of a bad lot. It’s not a perfect reconciliation of the issues but it feels enough for her, for now.

Alex Gaumond’s Adam is no reconstructed new man but again there’s more nuance to the character than one might expect. He’s occasionally pig-headed but he knows he’s pig-headed and his attempts to conquer his own stubborn nature feel genuine – as he slaps Milly on the arse, you know it is because he knows he’ll get one back from her and he loves it. Together, they’re a delightful pair and it’s something of a shame that Gene De Paul, Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn’s score doesn’t allow them more musical time together.

Stephen Ridley’s orchestra, tucked away in a glen at the back of the stage, play Larry Blank and Mark Cumberland’s orchestrations with a wonderfully open sound and Alistair David’s expressive choreography rightfully takes centre stage. The divide between the near-balletic moves of the Pontipee brothers (real men dance in onesies doncha know…!) and the earthier style of the townsmen is a visual treat whether dancing or fighting (nifty work from Kate Waters there too) and caught in the middle, the women more than stand their ground amid ‘The Challenge Dance’. Altogether, another resounding success for Kavanaugh in the Open Air.

Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes (with interval)
Show image: Hugo Glendinning + Feast Creative, photos: Helen Maybanks
Booking until 29th August

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