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Theater review: Strong ensemble highlights talent-filled ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’ at HCT

SHARE Theater review: Strong ensemble highlights talent-filled ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’ at HCT
Quinn Dietlein as Adam Pontipee and Erin Royall Carlson as Milly Bradon in Hale Centre Theatre's production of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers."

Quinn Dietlein as Adam Pontipee and Erin Royall Carlson as Milly Bradon in Hale Centre Theatre’s production of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.”

Douglas Carter

SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS,” through April 8, Hale Centre Theatre, 3333 S. Decker Lake Drive, West Valley City (801-984-9000 or hct.org); running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes (one intermission)

From the moment audiences enter Hale Centre Theatre to see the current production of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” they will find themselves transported from the theater in the round into the crisp mountain air. Four large screens held up by hewn logs depict towering mountains, evergreen trees and blue skies as the sound of chirping birds, rushing water and the chatter of other mountain critters echo through the theater.

The scenery is undoubtedly beautiful, but it’s only a small taste of the thrills to come in HCT’s talent-filled stage rendition of the 1954 film, which runs through April 8 at the West Valley theater.

The musical tells the story of Adam Pontipee, a backwoodsman in 1850s Oregon, and his six rowdy brothers. Ever since their parents passed away, it has been Adam’s job to care for his brothers, but now he’s decided it’s time for him to find a wife.

Adam goes to a nearby town and meets Milly Bradon, a spunky but refined woman whose parents died on the trail out to Oregon, which has caused her to learn to take care of herself. Adam woos her with talk of acres of secluded mountain meadows without a mention of his brothers, and the two marry quickly after meeting.

When the couple arrive at their cabin home, the unsuspecting Milly meets her brood of brothers-in-law but instead of throwing in the towel, she takes it upon herself to civilize the unruly, uncultured men. Things get complicated, however, when the overenthusiastic brothers decide to kidnap brides of their own from town.

Director Dave Tinney has done an exceptional job in assembling a large cast of talented performers, all of whom seem to be triple-threats in their ability to act, dance and sing.

Quinn Dietlein takes on the role of Adam Pontipee in the Monday/Wednesday/Friday cast of the show and captures the complexity of his prideful character with ease. Dietlein’s physique is fitting for the imposing, rugged mountain farmer, and his booming baritone voice is commanding, despite the fact that the music, at times, was set at an overpowering volume.

Erin Royall Carlson is single-cast as Milly Bradon, and it’s obvious why Tinney would want to showcase her talents every night of the show’s run. The character of Milly is the glue of the story, and Carlson’s undeniable talent is the glue of the cast as she portrays Milly as the epitome of strong-willed femininity. She hits every note with ease, and the power behind her voice makes it seem as though Carlson is accustomed to singing much more complicated tunes.

While the lead performances were indeed impressive, the ensemble and choreography are by far the highlights of the show.

The cast is chock-full of extremely talented dancers, especially among the Pontipee brothers and other male ensemble members, many of whom are single-cast. Tinney doubled as choreographer for the show and presented the cast with number after number of difficult dance steps, and the ensemble more than rose to the occasion and never missed a beat. The ensemble moves with ease between perfectly synchronized footwork among the whole cast and moments when small groups break off to perform unique choreography. There is so much going on in each dance number but every cast member hits each step perfectly,

Suzanne Carling’s beautiful costume designs feature vibrant fabrics of varying patterns from plaid and gingham to flowered and striped, and the seven brides’ spring dresses are particularly stunning as each looks like an intricate, homemade quilt.

The combination of stunning costumes and strong performances results in a visual feast musical theater fans won’t want to miss out on.

Content advisory: "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" contains a few instances of mild violence, and some of the characters' actions are likely to be considered chauvinistic.