Of the many stage musicals inspired by their movie origins, little attention has been paid locally to "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," now enjoying a three-weekend run at Costa Mesa's Vanguard University.
Cinemaphiles will recall the 1954 flick for the booming voice of Howard Keel, the feisty Jane Powell and the athletic artistry of Russ Tamblyn. It's all here at Vanguard's Lyceum Theater, minus the log-borne dance challenge.
Director Vanda Eggingtron, who also serves as musical director, has rounded up a capable cast to populate this high-voltage musical, adding cute downstage vignettes to cover the scenic transitions. And the superb choreography of Bretlyn Schmitt-Lazaris gives the show a professional gloss.
The latter element comes beautifully into its own at the social dance in the mid-19th century Wyoming settlement when the mountain boys mix with the town girls, the local guys rebuff them and all hell breaks loose. It's a rightfully extended sequence that displays the choreographer's imagination and the energetic talent of the Vanguard ensemble.
Taking center stage as the eldest of the bachelor brothers is Robert Ball, delivering a lusty performance with a powerful voice. Megan Fox is delightful as his bride, captured in the briefest of whirlwind courtships, who finds herself an unexpected nursemaid to her husband's six adult siblings.
The brothers form an enthusiastic ensemble, with one individual performance rising to the top. Erick Paul as the diminutive yet pugnacious Frank (short for Frankincense) does yeoman duty both with his acting and back-flipping gymnastics.
The others — Andreas Schmidt, Christopher Aguirre, Cameron Burchard, Cornelius Lindsey and Ethan Boyle — bring an upbeat note of sibling revelry to the already-lively production.
The six pursued maidens deliver equally effective performances, especially the tiny Alice (Noelle Roth). She's joined by Ashley Bassett, Gabrielle Incremona, Alyssa Chan-Evangelista, Heather Christensen and Alison Bassett to form a delightful ensemble.
A large supporting cast, led by Austin Christensen's imposing preacher, rounds out the Vanguard show, all beautifully costumed by Lia M.Hansen. Paul Eggington has created a handsome frontier setting, backed by a picturesque mountain range.
"Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" spills quite effectively onto the limited dimensions of the Lyceum stage. It's an uplifting and entertaining production at Vanguard University.
If You Go
What: "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers"
When: Till March 4; 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays
Where: Lyceum Theater, Vanguard University, 55 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa
Cost: $15 to $19
Information: (714) 668-6145