On March 19, 20, and 21, Princeton High School’s Musical Theater class, taught by Patricia Wray, will showcase the 2015 spring musical, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. The actors involved have been working together both in and out of class to prepare for the show, which includes mock fights, dance showdowns, and rustic-styled numbers. With additional coaching from professional dancer and choreographer Enrique Brown, the cast is preparing for one of the school’s best-attended productions of the year.
Recognized for its elaborate dance routines, this rendition of The Sobbin’ Women, a 1937 novel by Stephen Vincent Benét, is a family-friendly interpretation open to all audiences. Set on the Oregon frontier during the 1850s, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers revolves around the romantic relationship between woodsman Adam, played by Sanjay Khanduri ’15, and local waitress Milly, played by Maddy Guerra ’15. Soon after the couple is wed, Adam’s six brothers become interested in pursuing their own romances, and the story unfolds from there.
Fergus Binnie ’17, who plays the brother Frank, considers the brothers’ attempts to find love almost comical. “[The brothers] go into town and successfully court some girls, but they get into a fight,” Binnie said. “Thinking it is the correct thing to do, they go back and kidnap each individual bride.”
The musical’s comedic plot involves several large dance routines that help move the story along. With his prior involvement in productions of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers over the course of his professional career, Brown is familiar with the musical’s style of dancing and its contribution to the play. “I put the steps together so the movements help progress the story,” said Brown. “The dancing, overall, is almost like a western waltz. Being in Oregon, the dance isn’t your typical waltz: it’s been stylized by the area the play’s set in … It’s almost like a square dance.”
Since dance is important to the story’s progression, actors are grateful for Brown’s leadership in the musical. “Having [Brown] come in … gives us a taste of what it’s like to work with professionals,” said Christina Nini ’16, who plays the bride Ruth. “I think it motivates us to do our best.”
As the performance dates draw nearer, Brown strives to continue to make the process as enjoyable as possible. “My personal philosophy for teaching is simply to have fun. As long as you have fun and don’t feel judged, anyone can dance,” Brown said.
Musical Theater’s collaboration with PHS Orchestra in the performance of Carousel from October also contributes to the musical’s preparation. Wray sees the extra stage time gained from the experience as beneficial to the upcoming play. “The performance allowed the students to begin to feel familiar with aspects that will be in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Carousel is also about love and in a small town so it was very easy for [the students] to transition from those characters,” Wray said. “Plus, they bonded really well.”
In addition to those involved in the Musical Theater course, nine students have been added to the musical’s cast to fill minor roles. “Generally, for the musical, we add extra people,” Wray said. “This year, we needed extra boys due to low numbers in Musical Theater.”
These new actors bring previous experience to their roles in the musical. Eric Kern ’17, who plays the suitor Luke, sees the play as a good opportunity to employ his talents. “I just enjoy music and am in the choir, so I figured I should put that to good use,” Kern said.
Kai Gibson ’17, who plays the suitor Nathan, will also be contributing outside experience. “The other kids have training in singing and I don’t,” Gibson said. “But I have danced before, so learning [the dances] comes [more easily] to me.”
In choosing Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, the drama department will continue its tradition of alternating between more family-oriented plays and those geared more toward a mature audience. “I try to have the pendulum swing back and forth so we do different things,” Wray said. “For example, in 2013 we did Beauty and the Beast, which is very family friendly … and then last year we did A Little Night Music, which was definitely not for children … [as] there [were] a lot of innuendos.”
With the musical seeking to draw a larger audience than that of last year, the cast looks forward to the event. “It will be fun for everyone to come and see their friends or people they see walking through the hallways dancing,” said Wray. “And I mean really dancing.”