McLean Theatre Alliance is returning to those sexist days of yesteryear with a rousing production of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers."
With songs like "A Woman Ought to Know Her Place," it would seem that this show would be a little outdated for 1999, but, on the contrary, it pokes fun at that sort of sentiment. And for the most part, the seven brides are much smarter than the seven brothers.
"Seven Brides" is the tale of Oregon mountain men--seven brothers--in the 1850s who have in common an exceedingly awkward way with women. The oldest brother goes to town to fetch a bride, spots one in a restaurant and immediately proposes. His oafishly blunt approach works, and they marry on the spot.
But things don't go so smoothly for his six brothers, who end up kidnapping six women of their fancy and dragging them to their crowded mountain cabin, where they are snowed in for the winter. The women, who are attracted to these guys in the first place, aren't all that upset, but the people of the town below spend the next few months tracking them down.
Songs written for a Broadway production have transformed an original 1954 movie version, written by Lawrence Kasha and David Landay, and the origins of the script date back even further, to a story by Stephen Vincent Benet called "The Sobbin' Women" (which is based on the Roman legend of the rape of the Sabine women.)
Hans Bachmann directs the McLean performance with an intelligent hand, keeping it light and satirical. By presenting the brothers as a crew of likable idiots, he avoids suggesting that their behavior is acceptable.
Bachmann also stars in the show, as the eldest brother, Adam Pontipee. He brings to the role his strong stage presence, which has brought him acclaim over the years in productions by companies throughout the Washington area.
As always, it's a pleasure to hear him sing. Even when belting out "A Woman Ought to Know Her Place," the performance is so intense, you almost agree with his character. Almost, but not quite.
Margaret Allman is his formidable match as Adam's wife, Milly. Allman gives her character a strong will and the determination to stand up to her well-meaning, blow-hard hubby. She also sings well, especially in a romantic piece, "Love Never Goes Away."
If you are old enough to remember the film, with its remarkably acrobatic dancing (and a powerful performance by ballet star Jacques D'Amboise), you won't be disappointed with this amateur production. The dancing, choreographed by Greg Schanuel, is extremely well timed and surprisingly physical.
But the dancing space is limited by a large orchestra pit, and with such an energetic performance, it seems inevitable that a hapless hoofer will pitch over the edge. The good side of this, however, is that the pit is filled with a fine orchestra, conducted by musical director J.N. Wickert III.
Costumes, designed by Beverly Benda, are bright and nicely color-coordinated and lend an authentic 1850s appearance to the stage.
A tidy set, designed by Scott Obenchain, represents the Pontipee cabin, along with backdrops and light projections to shift settings smoothly and quickly from scene to scene.
"Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" is very much an ensemble piece, and the 30-some-member cast performs like a team of well-seasoned professionals, making this an impressive finale to the fledgling McLean Theatre Alliance's first full season.
"Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" continues at 8 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday at the Alden Theater of the McLean Community Center, 1234 Ingleside Ave., McLean. Tickets are $13. Call 703-866-6909 for information and reservations.