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[whitespace] Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Marty Sohl

Do the Crawl: Jim T. Ruttman (left) and Russell Nickerson in 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers'

'Seven Brides' sparkles with rustic charm

By Heather Zimmerman

WITH JOHNNY MERCER and Gene de Paul' s folksy, flirtatious charmer Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, American Musical Theatre of San Jose comes full circle to close out a diverse season that began with longtime favorite The Music Man and moved to the darker, more contemporary City of Angels. It may be set in the backwoods, but the show makes a fitting grand finale, featuring some of the most ambitious dancing seen on the company's stage this year.

This spirited romantic musical, set in 1850s Oregon Territory, works the Taming of the Shrew/Kiss Me Kate premise in reverse, avowing that it only takes a little kindness to turn men into "civilized" creatures. In this case, it's the raucous Pontipee clan of seven brothers, who are tamed by eldest brother Adam's feisty new wife, Milly (Rachel deBenedet). But Milly's manners lessons aren't completely effective when her six brothers-in-law want to marry women from the nearby town and are snubbed by the citizens; at the urging of their elder--but not wiser--brother, the bumpkins kidnap their would-be brides.

DeBenedet's warm voice helps to uplift a long first act concerned mostly with exposition but also punctuated by some rousing dance numbers, most notably a delightfully acrobatic showdown between the brothers and their girls' other suitors. Pepper Clyde's rambunctious choreography shines in such major dance numbers and captures the show's quaintness and humor, particularly in the brothers' lusty lament "We Gotta Make It Through the Winter." And the excellent ensemble cast proves to be as tuneful in belting the lively songs as they are talented at wrangling the intricate choreography. Thomas G. Marquez's fanciful costumes bedeck the cast in frills and homey calico--and color-code each bride in vibrant tones to match her groom. The set, which offers a backdrop of rural charm, overarched by majestic painted mountains and towering trees, is beautifully complemented by Barbara DuBois' lighting design.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers plays Wednesday-Thursday at 8pm, Friday at 8:30pm, Saturday at 2 and 8:30pm, Sunday at 2 and 7pm, plus Wednesday (May 27) at 2pm at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, 255 Almaden Blvd., San Jose. Tickets are $35-$50. (888/455-SHOW)

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From the May 21-27, 1998 issue of Metro.

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