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Community Voice Review

Theater Heats Up for Sacramento Summer

The brothers and their soon-to-be brides kick up their hills in the Music Circus production of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers."

Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer vacation. June 21 is the official first day of summer. But Sacramentans know it isn’t really summer until Music Circus opens.

Temperatures suggest summer is now and the arrival of Broadway at Music Circus (that’s the new official title) confirms it. On the heels of a sold-out run of “Singin’ in the Rain,” Music Circus continues the hot fun with a dazzling version of one of its audiences’ favorite shows — “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” now through Sunday.

Based on the 1954 film, the musical features Edward Watts as Adam Pontipee, a rough mountain man who comes to town in search of a wife, a woman who will cook and clean and take care of his six brothers. Paige Faure, who starred in a recent Broadway revival of “Miss Saigon,” stars as Milly, a young woman who catches Adam’s eye. She’s hard-working, dedicated, loyal – and “pur-ty,” too. She’s also strong-willed, with a mind of her own. Though she succumbs to Adam’s charms, even taking on the task of “civilizing” his six siblings, she maintains her independence.

Directed by Glenn Casale and choreographed by Patti Colombo, “Brides” is packed with singing and dancing. Although there were no big “hits” in the musical, there are fine tunes, nonetheless, which smartly advance the plot. “Bless Your Beautiful Hide, “Wonderful, Wonderful Day” and “Love Never Goes Away” are among the best here. The dancing is strong, too, featured throughout, but highlighted in the company’s “Social Dance” and the Brides and Brothers’ “Spring Dance.”

The one problematic element – and it has always been essential to the plot – is the “Sobbin’ Women” episode. Based on Stephen Vincent Benet’s take on the ancient “Rape of the Sabine Women,” it involves the abduction of the would-be brides from their homes to be taken to the Pontipee place in the mountains. Although Adam finally comes to realize that seduction-through-kidnapping is wrong, the women and the men eventually mutually get together.

“Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” is performed at 7:30 p.m. nightly through Saturday and at 2 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday (final performance). Tickets range from $45 to $99.

For more information, go to BroadwaySacramento.com or call (916) 557-1999.

Two Reasons to Celebrate

Celebration Arts, now comfortably settled into its new home in the old B Street Theatre Stage Three (2727 B St.), is staging two shows in repertory, now through July 29. Although neither is a true musical, both feature songs – and both are excellent.

Tory Scroggins and Tarig Elsiddig star in “Blue Door” a drama insightfully directed by James Wheatley. Lewis (Scroggins) is a tenured math professor at a prestigious Eastern university. An African American intellectual, he has worked hard to get where he is, often denying, or downplaying, his past. One night, during an epic bout of insomnia, his mind conjures visits from his ancestors – three generations of men from slavery through the Black Power movement. Elsiddig magnificently portrays all these ancestors, challenging Scroggins’ reticent Lewis to man up. Personal and cultural identity and how they are integrated – or not – in the individual are at the heart of this drama.

Linda Goodrich directs “Black Pearl Sings!,” which features strong performances from Lynn Baker and Carla Fleming. Baker plays Susannah Mullally, a white musicologist who has a grant from the national Library of Congress to find and record important old folk music before it is lost for all generations. Fleming is riveting as Pearl, who is discovered working on a chain gang in a Texas prison. She’s already served 10 years for castrating an abusive former partner (today’s “battered woman” defense, which didn’t exist in 1933, might have mitigated her punishment). She possesses a treasury of songs reaching back to the plantation days and beyond. Mullally wants to preserve the songs for posterity, but she also hopes to advance her career with the valuable find. Pearl demands that Mullally help her find her missing daughter in exchange for her songs. The two eventually come to a mutually beneficial agreement. Modern problems, such as the effects on society of black  incarcerations and lingering stereotypes and the “glass ceiling” facing women in business and academia, are subtly present throughout. Fleming performs snatches of songs from plantation days that will be familiar to many through their adaptation in blues and popular music. “Ride, Sally, Ride,” “Kum Bah Ya,” “Wade in the Water” and “Whipping Post” are among those songs.

“Blue Door” is presented at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday and July 5, 6, 7, 14, 21, 26 and 27 and at 2 p.m. July 8, 15, 22, 28. “Black Pearl Sings!” is presented at 8 p.m. Saturday and July 12, 13, 19, 20 and 28 and at 2 p.m. July 21 and 29. Tickets for either play are $15-$20.

For tickets or more information, call (916) 455-2787 or go to Celebrationarts.net.

Photo by by Charr Crail.

About the author

Jim Carnes

Jim Carnes has masters degrees in English and journalism and is a former National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow in popular culture at Stanford University. He has covered Sacramento arts and entertainment for more than 20 years. He currently writes about and reviews theater, dance, music and events in the Sacramento area.

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