Interview: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

If you thought Emma Watson was a strong advocate for feminism, you haven’t seen Milly Pontipee flip a table while screaming in the faces of seven rowdy boys. Produced by the Griffith Conservatorium of Musical Theatre, ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’ premiered on May 5th, the second-year students dazzling a sold-out opening audience.

The musical follows the head-strong character of Milly Pontipee, a cook from Oregon who spontaneously marries a woodsman named Adam. Only once she’s uprooted her life to move to his farm does she discover that Adam lives with his six younger brothers. Her dreams of love and freedom smashed, she refuses to play the role of housewife and instead teaches the boys the manners they need to court wives for themselves.

The sensational Paige McKay captivated the crowd in the role of feisty Milly. Each word she spoke was accompanied by a comprehensive depth of insight into the fictional personality, blurring the thin line between actor and character. 19-year-old Paige said that playing an “independent woman who creates her own destiny” has allowed her to recognise the importance of having “individuality and control in your life. She (Milly) longs for bigger things for herself, and knows that she’s capable of achieving what she puts her mind to. I certainly have dreams, as we all do, and strongly believe that we too can achieve whatever we put our hearts and souls into. She carries a good balance of personality traits, love and independence that I strive to embody.”

“…we too can achieve whatever we
put our hearts and souls into.”

Paige’s rendition of ‘I Married Seven Brothers’ was greeted with a smattering of enthusiastic applause and whistles, a sure-fire sign that her solo was a highlight of the night. The lively barn-raising dance was another feature which left audiences grinning. Even though the full-cast dance numbers seemed to crowd the small stage, Ben Mayne’s extravagant choreography of successive split-jumps and sharp partner routines literally swept the girls off of their feet.

As the show progresses, the Pontipee boys determine that the way to the girls’ hearts is through the ‘romantic gesture’ of abduction. It seems that kidnapping makes for quite a dynamic musical number, as laughter was elicited from the crowd when the girls were carried kicking and squealing from the stage. A hint of Stockholm syndrome slinks into the plot as the girls fall for their captors, raising questions about gender roles in theatre.

Paige said the blatant misogyny present in the show sends a significant message to the audience: “This show came at the perfect time for a few reasons … Unfortunately women are still being treated poorly behind closed doors no matter where you come from.

“Violence against women both physically and mentally is still a huge issue in society that needs to be changed. For us to bring a show into the eyes and hearts of audiences that makes them sit there and wonder ‘Did he really just say that?’ shows the strong morals we have that you can’t treat women as less than equal. (The musical) turns the mirror onto the audience, leaving them thinking about the respect of women in their lives, and hopefully making  a change in even the smallest aspect. Milly putting herself on an equal level to Adam shows the strength that women have, and that respect is something to be earned, not entitled.

“No woman should feel dominated
or undermined by anyone,
and I think this show pulls off
the covers to an issue still
relevant in society today.”

Despite the element of sexism present within ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’, Paige loves playing the “motherly role,” as it is “such a thrill being in control of the power play in the space. Watching the boys grow throughout the show is always a bittersweet joy. I’ll definitely miss teaching them a thing or two about etiquette!”

“This role is the biggest and most demanding I’ve played. For me, the hardest challenge was the singing requirements for Milly, (but) as rehearsals progressed, my voice became comfortable,” Paige said.

“I knew I could trust my technique
and just enjoy telling this
robust and beautiful story.”

The Conservatorium’s production of the romantic comedy ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,’ certainly lived up to the high standards set by the classic movie. The audience left the Burke Street studio with country music ringing in their ears and spirited characters warming their hearts.

Find information on the Conservatorium’s upcoming shows here.

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This post was originally published on The Creative Issue.
You can check out all my TCI posts here.

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