Them “Sobbin’ Women”

I grew up watching old movies with my mom. We’ve always leaned toward the musical comedies, and together we’ve spent countless hours watching stars like Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Gene Kelly, Doris Day, Debbie Reynolds, Esther Williams, Van Johnson, Ginger Rogers sing and dance their way across the silver screen.

One of my all time favorites has always been “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” the 1954 MGM musical starring Howard Keel and Jane Powell.

I have no idea how many times I’ve seen it, but suffice it to say, I know just about every line in the movie. And all the songs. So, I wouldn’t recommend watching it with me unless you really, really like surround sound.

Just thinking about it has me humming the opening number, “Bless her beautiful hide.”

This frontier tale focuses around Adam Pontipee (Keel) and his six brothers, seven “slumachy back woodsmen” carving a life for themselves in the Oregon wilderness. Adam heads to town in search of a bride, and finds Milly (Powell). He neglects to inform her, however, that they’ll be sharing a cabin with his mangy, ill-mannered siblings. But Milly, who is as strong-willed as she is hardworking, is more than up for the task. In no time at all, she has whipped the household – and the Pontipees – into shape. Once they are clean shaven, she sees what a handsome family she has married into and decides to find her new brothers-in-law wives of their own. (Insert the highly entertaining “Going Courtin’” scene here.)

Because of their reputation as a rowdy bunch, the brothers don’t have much to do with the town folks, but a barn raising provides them the opportunity to meet six young ladies. They are instantly taken with one another. Unfortunately, the lovely young things already have suitors. Despite the Pontipees best efforts – and their amazing dancing skills – they don’t succeed in winning the girls’ affections.

Licking their wounds (both literally and figuratively, since the social ended in quite the brawl), the Pontipees return to their mountain abode where Milly tends to their physical injuries and explains that the strange feeling they have in the pit of their stomachs is the first flutter of love.

As winter sets in, the young men continue to pine for their girls. Finally, Adam loses patience with their moping and suggests they take matters into their own hands – by fetching the girls just as the Romans did in Plutarch’s tale of the Sabine women. He convinces them that this course of action is a good idea in a rousing number, “Sobbin’ Women.”

Indeed the young innocent girls were “sobbin’ buckets of tears” as they were basically kidnapped from their homes and carted back to God’s country through a treacherous mountain pass.

The plan doesn’t work out exactly how the Pontipees anticipated. Not only do they spark the ire of the townspeople, but Milly is none to pleased with their actions either. An avalanche (caused by the girls’ wailing) prevents them from returning to town, so they settle in for the winter with the ladies occupying the cabin and the brothers relegated to the barn. All except Adam, that is, who takes his wounded pride off to a remote hunting cabin.

By the time the pass is open, and Adam returns, the girls have all but forgotten going back to their families for Spring has brought, not only a new baby for Milly, but love for each of them as well.

When their fathers come for them, they hear the baby cry and what follows is a real shotgun wedding.

Given my love for the movie, you can probably imagine how thrilled I was to hear the Greene Footlights were performing it this year. I had some pretty high expectation when I traveled south to watch a dress rehearsal of the show earlier this week. And believe me, these talented teens did not disappoint.

The theatrical version isn’t exactly the same as the movie, and it took me awhile to stop wanting to “correct” things. But once I got past those differences, I was blown away. Nathanael Westover (the Tin Man in last year’s production of “The Wizard of Oz”) would do Keel proud as Adam Pontipee. What a voice! Martina Browning is also stunning as Milly. Chris DaCosta – who plays Gideon, the youngest Pontipee – is truly a standout. The entire cast is fantastic, really, putting their heart, soul and vocal chords behind each number.

So, guess what I’m taking my mom to see this weekend?

The Greene High School Footlight’s will hold public performances of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday night in the High School Auditorium, and at 3 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $7 for adults, $5 for students and senior citizens.

Follow me on Twitter ... @evesunmelissa.

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