REVUE: The Barn brings ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’ into the new world
AUGUSTA, MI–Some might assume the musical “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” remains a show of its time, based as it is on the Academy Award winning 1954 MGM film. And in many ways, this classic musical romantic comedy is just that, with its melodic score, grand dance numbers, family friendliness, and a story that riffs on a stock battle-of-the-sexes theme.
And yet, this crowd-pleasing summer stock classic, a perfect fit as the 76th season opener at The Barn Theatre in Augusta, with some clever reimagining and enormous talent, brings a much-needed 2022 sensibility to this adaptation of an adaptation based on Roman myth “The Rape of the Sabine Women.”
The story takes place during the westward expansion when rugged Adam Pontipee, long in search of the kind of wife who can not only survive the Oregon wilderness but also take care of him and his six brothers on their farm desperately in need of a woman’s touch, sees what he wants in spunky, hardworking Milly, and wins her over. She agrees to marry him without a formal courtship or full comprehension of what she’s signed up for.
While she rises to the challenge of teaching the uncouth, scrappy boys manners and hygiene, she draws several lines in the sand: between hired help and wife, all but banishing Adam from the bedroom; and exiling all the brothers to the barn after they kidnap the women they want to marry, inspired by the myth of the Sabine Women.
But in this telling, thanks to Patrick Hunter’s adroit direction and the actors’ bold performances, the focus is less on the men’s self-righteous bad behavior and more on the women’s desires, effectively and subtly transforming misogyny into a vehicle of female empowerment — all without changing the plot or any of the elements that people love about this big musical.