The luminous MGM musical “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” plays at the Redford Theatre this weekend.
The 1954 film starts Howard Keel as Adam, the eldest of seven brothers living in Oregon Territory in 1850. He leaves his cabin in the woods and heads into town in the hopes of finding a wife. Although laughed at by the townspeople for his wild and wooly ways, he meets the lovely Milly (Jane Powell) at the town tavern and is instantly smitten with her. He proposes and she accepts, even though they have only known each other for a few hours.
Assuming she is only taking care of Adam, Milly is shocked to find that he lives with his six younger brothers under the same roof. They were all named after characters from the Old Testament. After Adam are Benjamin, Caleb, Daniel, Ephraim, Frank (short for Frankincense, the Old Testament having no names beginning with F), and Gideon (Russ Tamblyn). Milly has her work cut out for her teaching them proper manners and social mores. Though they rebel at first, they realize it is necessary to get wives of their own.
The other six brothers test out their skills at a barn-raising, where they meet six young ladies from town—Dorcas (Julie Newmar, billed as Julie Newmeyer), Ruth, Martha, Liza, Sarah, and Alice. But the girls already have suitors, who taunt the brothers, resulting in a major fight that destroys the barn and gets them banished from town.
When winter comes, loneliness takes over the six brothers. Adam reads his brothers the story of “The Sobbin’ Women” (taken from Plutarch’s story of the Sabine Women), a book Milly brought with her. He tells them that they should stop moping around and take whatever action is necessary to get their women. Aided by Adam, the brothers kidnap the girls and trigger an avalanche so the townspeople cannot reach them. Milly is infuriated by what has happened and keeps the girls in the house, while exiling Adam and his brothers to the barn. But until spring comes, when the passage will be open again, many things happen in the farm with Milly, Adam, his brothers and their “brides”.
The choreography by Michael Kidd is the major highlight of the film. Originally he turned the project down. He said in 1997: “Here are these slobs living off in the woods. They have no schooling, they are uncouth, there’s manure on the floor, the cows come in and out – and they’re gonna get up and dance? We’d be laughed out of the house.”
Show times are Friday, April 1 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, April 2 at 2 and 8 p.m. Be sure to come a half hour early for a musical overture on the historic Barton organ. Advanced tickets may be purchased here.