MGM's classic 1950s musical about seven "sobbin' women" seized from their home town by rough backwoodsmen could make for an uncertain offer in the 21st Century, but a steady directorial hand, a fine eye for the strengths of the cast, and non-stop dancing keep this production firmly on the light side; serious without being slow, and honest without losing its heart.
Sumptuous painted backdrops, eye-popping Technicolor costumes and a strong sense of family-friendly respectability keep it true to its matinee roots, while the fast pace, high emotional pitch and vocal and physical gymnastics give appeal to new generations of musical theatre fans.
The dance scenes are a well planned and perfectly executed chaos of competitive backflipping, high kicks and whirling skirts. The dizzying technical expertise of the townsfolk dancers is pleasantly contrasted against the chemistry of the brides and brothers, at their best when quivering with emotion and barely under control, with Sam Stones and Elisha Sherman particularly hilarious as Frank and Sarah.
Jack Greaves is exceptional as youngest brother Gideon, with a voice that could melt snow and a heart as big as an avalanche (and a charming indifference to occasionally being mistaken for one of the brides and tossed around the stage by the menfolk). Lead Sam Attwater (bluff and gruff as Adam Pontipree) occasionally seems hopelessly outclassed by his lovely wife Milly (exquisitely voiced Helena Blackman), but that is consistent with the story, and he delivers some of the finest laughs in the show. For above all this production is funny. From the straight-laced, straight-faced treatment of "Lonesome Polecat", to the madcap hand-me-down dresses with frills on their ruffles and bows on their bows, to one of the finest escapes from a barrel ever, this show keeps on laughing, even as it delivers the sweetly moving moments.