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For this ‘Bride’ and ‘Brother,’ a musical trip back to the Wild West

Good Company Players is in the opening weekend of the musical “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater. Here are Seven Things to Know:


1.

The premise is dated — OK, very dated — but remember that the action takes place more than 150 years ago.

The idea is that the Oregon Territory, where Adam (Chris Moran) and his six hygienically challenged brothers live in rustic bliss way up in the mountains, has a lopsided male-female ratio. That makes women quite sought after, and not always respectfully. That’s one reason why Milly (Meg Clark), a resilient and resourceful woman who works as a restaurant server in a town not far from the brothers, agrees to marry Adam on the spot.

Pictured at top: Chris Moran, center, and his siblings in ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.’ Photo: Good Company Players

“When he asks to marry her, first she says that’s ridiculous, but then she thinks it’s better than working at this restaurant and getting harassed,” Clark says.

Milly wasn’t counting on finding Adam’s six rough-hewn brothers when she gets to his cabin, however.

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And she isn’t pleased when she learns that instead of using match.com to find their own wives, the brothers use a more archaic approach to their marriage proposals. (An original source material for the play is the ancient Roman story of “The Rape of the Sabine Women,” which involved the men of Rome holding mass abductions of young women from other cities.)


2.

The movie came first.

That would be the 1954 film directed by Stanley Donen and starring Howard Keel as Adam and Jane Powell as Milly. Known for its rousing choreography, the film includes a famous barn-raising dance (ending in the barn actually tumbling down) that delighted audiences. The film was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards but lost to “On the Waterfront.”

The theatrical version opened on Broadway in 1982, and has been a staple of community theaters ever since.


3.

The music is wonderful.

That’s why Moran auditioned for Adam.

“This was my dream role,” he says. “I’ve always wanted to play the part. The music has been in my soul since I was a kid.”

The music is by Gene de Paul, Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn, and lyrics are by Johnny Mercer, Al Kasha and Hirschhorn.


4.

Moran and GCP go way back.

He’s an alum of the Junior Company and was in several mainstage shows many years ago, including “Grease” and “Paint Your Wagon.” But then grown-up life intervened. Moran served in the armed forces, and while he was able to keep his hand in singing — he performed the national anthem each year at the Marine Corps Ball — theater took a back seat. After that, family and business took precedence. But after a 15-year break, he knew he’d do whatever it took, time-wise, if he could be in “7 Brides.”

“It’s a 15-week commitment, so it’s really a lot of time away from family,” he says.

He continues to hone his singing chops on a regular basis, by the way, performing the national anthem for Bulldogs and Grizzlies games and veterans events. Once you hear his voice, you’ll know why.

“It’s an opportunity to sing for 90 seconds, and everyone has to stand up,” he says.


5.

Clark has had quite a variety of roles this year.

Her performances have included starring roles in “The Fantasticks” and “Urinetown.” GCP audiences will know Clark from “H.M.S. Pinafore” at the 2nd Space Theatre. She also understudied Eliza Doolittle in the GCP production of “My Fair Lady” — and ended up having to step into the title role several times when the leading actress got sick.

Good Company Players

Meg Clark plays Milly in ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.’

For “Seven Brides,” Clark’s challenge has been to update Milly in a way that presents her as a strong woman while still remaining faithful to the story. She’s worked with director Laurie Pessano to make Milly a well-rounded and empowered character.

The show has undergone changes since its Broadway debut. A song titled “A Woman Ought to Know Her Place” is long gone. (You can see why.) The show’s book was also extensively rewritten in 2006.


6.

There’s no big barn dance like in the movie, but there’s still a barn-burner of a number.

Making a barn fall down would probably have been a little beyond the scope of GCP’s budget (and most other theater companies). But the dancing in the show is still vigorous and energetic, and the barn number has been replaced by a Social Dance. Both Moran and Clark note (with just a trace of weariness) that their already intense rehearsal schedule (Mondays through Fridays) also included an extra Saturday dance class with choreographer Kaye Migaki.

By the way, Adam and Milly didn’t need to be champion dancers, for which they’re both thankful. “They get me to dance a little,” he says with a laugh.


7.

It’s good, clean, old-fashioned fun.

Moran notes that “Seven Brides” doesn’t exactly have a modern message. But it has a lot of heart.

“For me,” he says, “I love this show so much that I’ll never get tired of it.”


Show info

“Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” a Good Company Players production. Runs through Nov. 11 at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater, 1226 N. Wishon Ave., Fresno. Tickets (some including dessert or dinner) are $32-$60.

Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

donaldfresnoarts@gmail.com

Comments (1)

  • Stephen

    Ugh. Don’t get me started on the Academy Awards for 1954 films. Judy Garland was robbed. “On the Waterfront,” a great film, was up against some bum pictures.

    Also, I’m a huge Meg Clark fan. From her soulful turn belting in Spring Awakening to her melodramatic sweet ingenue in Urinetown, I’m fairly convinced there’s little she can’t do. I’m sure she’ll be wonderful as Millie.

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