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Theatre Review: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers @ Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza

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It certainly doesn’t sound like a musical from the 50s. Among other things, it includes kidnapping, a dance-off, literal shotgun weddings, one woman moving in with seven men, and an opening number in which the main character expresses thanks for an unknown woman’s beautiful "hide."

But these elements come together to create the thoroughly enjoyable musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. For the last two weeks the Cabrillo Musical Theatre Group has presented this energetic musical at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza (which sorta straddles the LA and Ventura County lines).

This was perhaps the most athletic production I’ve ever seen, as they stuck very close to the ambitious choreography from the movie. And the music was superb, probably due in part to the fact that one of the original songwriters of the Broadway show, Al Kasha, was on hand to assist the team. The musical included additional music penned by both Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn, so it was a treat to hear some newer material that integrated with the original music and the story, but didn't appear in the movie.

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Prior to the beginning of the show, I wondered how they could possibly find someone who would fill the shoes of Adam, the oldest—and tallest—Pontipee brother. Whoever cast actor (and US Marine Corps Reserve Sergeant) Stuart Ambrose in the role deserves a pat on the back. Not only did he fit the bill physically (at 6'4") by towering over the women and most of the men by at least a head, but his voice was absolutely gorgeous—a velvety tone that was somehow soft and gruff at the same time.

Shannon Warne as Milly also did her role proud, making the character a strong yet understanding woman. It's a part that could easily be interpreted as a pushover, but Warne played it just right, and with a voice that nicely complemented Ambrose's.

Ambrose took charge with the opening notes of "Bless Your Beautiful Hide" and the strong cast carried the rest of the performance so adeptly that the time flew by. In addition, the newer songs integrated seamlessly with the original material to the point that it was hard to tell songs were added. The one thing that left me scratching my head a little bit was the omission of the "June Bride" song, but other than that, I had no complaints.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is a musical that lets you throw reality out the window. It's a place and time where there are "five men for every woman," and soul mates are chosen based on the fact that they're the one wearing the same color as you (I realize this is done to help the audience keep track of the brides and the brothers, but it has amused me ever since seeing the film.)

Although today's performance was the final one for this production, the Cabrillo Musical Theatre will present three more musicals this season:

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Ain't Misbehavin (January 4-13)
Jekyll & Hyde (March 7-16)
Singin' in the Rain (July 25 - August 3)

To learn more, visit the Cabrillo Musical Theatre website.