Amidst swirling fiddle melodies and a flurry of calico, petticoats and bloomers, director Bill Jenkins takes audiences back to a more innocent, romantic time. This sweetly old-fashioned musical evokes not only 1850s Oregon, but 1954, when the Oscar-nominated MGM movie version first delighted audiences. Based on the Jane Powell/Howard Keel film, and remembered primarily for Michael Kidd's athletically choreographed modern ballets, Drury Lane's production is a nostalgic throwback to a safer era.
Kevin Depinet's versatile set of giant, roughly hewn timber, positioned against a majestic backdrop of towering, snow-capped mountains and pine forests, seamlessly transforms into everything from the Pontipee farmhouse to a mountain pass during an avalanche. Kathryn Robe's period-perfect costumes look great. And while younger audiences may disagree, older patrons will enjoy the simple story with its takeoff on Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew," its inoffensive humor, and its catchy, familiar songs ("Bless Your Beautiful Hide," "Goin' Courtin'" and "Sobbin' Women"). Tammy Mader's stunning choreography pays homage to classic choreographers like Agnes de Mille. Roberta Duchak's musical direction is absolutely spot-on, accompanied by Ben Johnson's rich, full-sounding multi-piece orchestra.
Supported by brilliant technical artistry, Jenkins' talented cast includes favorite local leading lady Abby Mueller, wonderful as the feisty, ahead-of-her-time, independent Milly, and ruggedly handsome Broadway baritone Steve Blanchard as pigheaded Adam Pontipee. Showcased by an ensemble of skilled dancers/singers, young Zach Zube and Katie Huff shine above the others as youngest brother Gideon and his sweet love, Alice.
The show might be less appealing to younger theatre-goers, but Baby Boomers will love this stylishly produced reminiscence of a kinder, gentler time.