Stellar performances abound in 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.'
By Tricia Stiller
I had mixed emotions on my drive to Parkland College for the opening of CUTC's production of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers."
You see, growing up, this was my favorite MGM musical. I still own a VHS copy, though the box is in tatters from having been viewed so frequently over the years. In my humble opinion, the 1954 Academy Award winner was in a league of its own.
For this reason, I was anxious. This was sacred ground about to be trampled, I feared. I found my seat, took a deep breath and crossed my fingers as the lights dimmed, praying to the theater gods to be gentle.
And then a young actor named Trey Ball entered from the lobby and made his way to the stage singing the opening number. With confidence, the talented Mr. Ball, with his impressive vocals and charming demeanor, laid the foundation for a delightful evening.
Based on Stephen Vincent Benet's "The Sobbin' Women," which was based on the ancient Roman legend "Rape of the Sabine Women," "Seven Brides" follows the romantic trials and tribulations of the Pontipees — a family of frontiersmen — and the women they choose to wed.
The aforementioned Mr. Ball plays Adam, the eldest. A trader from the high country, he regularly comes to town to sell his spoils and pick up supplies, and this time, "a wife" is at the top of his supply list.
With no time for a fancy courtship, Adam sets his sights on Milly, the waitress at the logging camp, and sweeps her off her feet.
He doesn't mention the fact that he has six hungry brothers at home until the newlyweds arrive at the Pontipee cabin.
Not one to be defeated, Milly, expertly played by the lovely Jenna Conway, brings more than meat and potatoes to the table. She teaches the boys etiquette and the finer arts of wooing the fairer sex in preparation for an upcoming town social.
Despite the protests of their parents and their local suitors, the women of the town can't resist the rugged Pontipees, and when the boys take matters into their own hands, there is very little resistance.
In addition to the talents of Conway and Ball, this production is jam-packed with a dynamic and talented group of young people who absolutely shine under the direction of Tim Broeker.
I would wager that Broeker shares my love for this musical, as he missed no detail in its re-creation.
With the assistance of top-notch choreographer Chloe Ward, who really outdoes herself, and musical director Cullyn Murphy, Broeker succeeds in carrying on the legacy of Kathy Murphy in this ninth annual student production named in her honor.
Stellar performances abound, especially the dances featuring outstanding efforts by the "Brothers," Brady Wambach, Quinn Murphy, Jeremiah Beasley, Jack Wright, Jon Krecji and Timmy Purnell; and "Brides," Emmy Daniels, Bekah Krecji, Caitlin Elliot, Natalie Dullerud, Delaney Vallese and Natalie Deptula.
Costumes designed by Sheri Doyle give the finishing touch to this rousing production, which is suitable for all ages.
If you go
What: Champaign Urbana Theatre Company's ninth annual Kathy Murphy Student Production of the musical "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," directed by Tim Broeker with assistance from Becky Park. Music direction by Cullyn Murphy and assistant Adrian Rochelle; choreography by Chloe Ward and Rochelle.
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and next Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. this and next Sunday.
Where: Parkland Theatre, 2400 W. Bradley Ave., C.
Tickets: $16 for adults; $12, senior citizens and students; and $8, children.
Reservations: tix.extremetix.com/Online/?siteID=2589 or at the door.
Tricia Stiller serves as director for the McLean County Diversity Project's Theatre Program, the Miller Park Summer Theatre Program and the Penguin Project McLean County. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org .