Jeremy Stolle laughed when asked whether he considers dancing his strongest suit.
Stolle – who took a two-week break from performing in Broadway’s “Phantom of the Opera” to play a lead role, Adam, in Music Theatre Wichita’s “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” – instead gave credit to the college-aged ensemble, which is preparing scores of high-energy, athletic dances for the show.
“The dancing’s the star of this show, for sure,” he quipped.
“I’m an actor and a singer who moves well, when forced,” he said, quickly revising “forced” to “inspired.”
Music Theatre Wichita will open “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” the second show of its 2017 season, on Wednesday.
It’s certainly not a first – the theater has done the show twice before, once in 1993 and once in 2006 – but for Wichita audiences, it couldn’t come again soon enough, according to Wayne Bryan, MTW’s producing artistic director.
“This is one of our most-requested shows, always,” Bryan said. “People just love the athleticism of it.”
The show is set in 1850s Oregon.
In the show, Adam (played by Stolle), the eldest of seven backwoods brothers, goes into town to find a wife. He hastily marries Milly (played by Broadway veteran Catherine Charlebois), who is appalled at the ill-mannered nature of his family. Milly, a modern woman of the 1850s, helps tame the brothers and shape them into good men.
Then the brothers, who want wives of their own, kidnap six women they meet at a social dance, to the women’s indignation and that of their well-heeled suitors. The women eventually fall in love with the brothers and marry them.
The show – a period piece both of 1850s Oregon and of the 1950s (when the Stanley Donen film of the same name was released) – is an exploration of how a family works.
“You’d think some of the plot points might be a little bit archaic, with these men abducting these women and the women not exactly encouraging it but actually enjoying these boys who are more lively than the dull suitors that clearly their families have paired them up with, but you watch our news headlines, and men coming after women without their permission has hardly left the headlines,” Bryan said.
Milly was a rare character in 1950s Hollywood, according to the show’s director, Larry Raben.
“A lot of musicals in the 1950s didn’t have such strong women – women were victims of the men in their world,” Raben said. “Milly’s not that girl at all. Milly is, I think, a wonderful role model.”
Charlebois, who was last seen here as Belle in “Beauty and the Beast,” said she and Milly “are pretty similar ladies.”
“She’s strong, she’s tough, she’s not afraid to say how she feels, even if it’s not necessarily what’s done by most people at the time,” Charlebois said.
But what audiences truly love about “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” is always the dancing.
Longtime MTW choreographer Peggy Hickey is returning to choreograph the show, alongside associate John Todd.
Todd said choreographing this show is “like shopping at one of the best malls in the world.” Audiences can expect to see back handsprings and all sorts of high-energy moves – even some pyrotechnics.
“We’re showing off what all these actor/dancer/singers can do, and there’s some amazing talent coming up here,” he said. “They can do absolutely everything. ... The youth makes it, gives it gasoline.”
‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’
What: One of Music Theatre Wichita’s most-requested shows, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” is a high-energy musical based on the 1954 film of the same name – the second show of MTW’s 2017 season.
Where: Century II Concert Hall, 225 W. Douglas
When: 7:30 p.m. Wed.-Thu., 8 p.m. June 30, 2 and 8 p.m. July 1 and 2 and 7 p.m. July 2