Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Norwich
JOHN LAWSON It takes a brave man to update a musical that has gone down in Hollywood folklore – particularly when the lyricist of that show was the legendary Johnny Mercer.
It takes a brave man to update a musical that has gone down in Hollywood folklore – particularly when the lyricist of that show was the legendary Johnny Mercer.
But if you're going to do it then you cannot go far wrong by hiring Oscar-winning song-writing team Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn to come up with some additional songs.
The new numbers even elbowed a couple of Mercer's efforts into touch – but the result is a rootin', tootin', all singin' and dancin' night of entertainment that takes the audience to its heart.
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If anything, the new songs have brought real soul to the piece – creating characters we can care for rather that the Technicolor cut-out cowboys which typified 1940s and 1950s mid-western musicals.
And that holds true even if they at times don't quite fit in with the style of what's gone before. The multi-layered Love Never Goes Away is arguably the best number in the show, but it sounds for all the world like a 1980s power ballad rather than anything which could have been conjured from the consciousness of a red-necked cowboy.
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Dave Willetts and Shona Lindsay are as strong a leading duo as you could wish to have together on a stage, songs and characterisation both beautifully realised.
But they are well-supported by a stunning collection of singers and dancers, spendidly marshalled by Adrian Allsopp's all-action choreography and held rock solid by Gareth Williams driving eight-piece band. For a company of 28 and a sizeable set not looking to collectively crowd the stage is no mean achievement.
Glen Beckley's sound design needed some interval tweaking to get it spot on during the first night at the Theatre Royal, but this is a night of Fun with a capital F.