News Column

'Seven Brides' still just as engaging as in the old days [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (PA)]

June 6, 2013

YellowBrix

When George Dvorsky previously did "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" for Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, he had so much fun, he was happy to do it again.

"I had a ball in 2006," says Dvorsky, who grew up in Manor but now lives in New York City. "It's nice to come back to do it with a new cast and Sha Newman (director and choreographer of this cast and the 2006 production)."

It's not that he needs the work.

Through June 9, he's playing Pat Denning in the CLO's production of "42nd Street" while rehearsing for his role as of Adam Pontipee in "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," which runs June 11 to 16 at the Benedum Center.

To return to Pittsburgh for the two Pittsburgh CLO roles, Dvorsky had to take a leave of absence from his role as El Gallo in the production of "The Fantasticks" that is in an open-end run at the Snapple Theater Center in Manhattan.

Dvorsky has appeared in five Broadway musicals and routinely turns up in roles at regional theaters around the country.

Adam Pontipee will be his 11th role since 1991 at Pittsburgh CLO, where he last appeared in the 2011 production of "Jekyll & Hyde."

Pittsburgh audiences also saw him as Baron Bomburst of Vulgaria in 2009, when the national tour of "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" played the Benedum Center.

In "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," Dvorsky plays the oldest of the seven Pontipee brothers, who live and work together in the backwoods of 1850 Oregon.

When Adam marries Milly (Mamie Parris) after a whirlwind courtship, his brothers decide to take brides -- literally. They fast-track their courtships by kidnapping six women they meet at a barn-raising dance and bring them home -- much to Milly's dismay.

Before the townspeople can rescue the women, an avalanche closes off the pass and the women are forced to spend the winter. While they are sequestered in the barn, the men learn how to court them properly and bring the musical to an upbeat conclusion.

"It's truly a feel-good musical," Dvorsky says. "When I did it seven years ago, people said they wanted to see it again because they had such a good time. It's old-fashioned in (its use) of lyrics and song. When I do 'Bless Your Beautiful Hide,' people sit up in their seats and smile."

The score also contains the songs "Wonderful, Wonderful Day," "Love Never Goes Away," "Goin' Courting" and "Sobbin' Women."

That last song, sung by the brothers, is one of Dvorsky's favorite parts of the show.

"Rarely do you hear seven guys singing together," he says. "It's fun to have seven guys honking it out."

One song you won't hear in the production is "A Woman Ought to Know Her Place," which has been swapped out for "Where Were You?" Times and attitudes have changed since its appearance in the musical's 1982 Broadway debut, which ran only 20 performances. The misogynist philosophy of "A Woman Ought to Know Her Place" was often met with stony silence from contemporary audiences, Dvorsky says.

Instead, "Where Were You?," which was created for a revised 2007 production that had a limited national tour, casts Adam's discomfort with the changes Milly wants to make in a different light: "I raised these boys; how dare you change our lives?" Dvorsky says.

He also thinks the musical now has more humor and is freer in tone.

As in the original 1954 MGM movie, dance remains a big part of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers." Though Dvorsky is now 54, he can still keep pace with the youngsters in the dance ensemble.

The second-act Spring Dance number is one of his favorite parts of the show.

"I get to do a little clog at the end. It takes me back to my 'Whorehouse' days," he says, referring to the musical "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," in which he made his 1982 Broadway debut.

The choreographed numbers throughout the show are phenomenal, Dvorsky says.

"And now that I'm getting older, it's fun to watch the young ones do it."

Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or acarter@tribweb.com.

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