The rootin’ tootin’ musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers has had a makeover. Katy Wheeler speaks to its star, Sam Attwater
Next week Wearsiders will be whisked to the American frontier for a new version of a classic musical that promises more story, spins, somersaults and sparkle.
At the helm of the re-worked version of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is Dancing on Ice champion Sam Attwater.
The 27-year-old is stepping into the cowboy boots of Adam Pontipee for the show, which follows Adam’s journey of marriage in 1850s Oregon.
His new wife Milly, whose initial joy quickly sours when she discovers she has to look after Adam’s six unruly brothers, is played by Helena Blackman, from BBC1’s How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?
Even though many will be familiar with the musical, which is based on the hit 1954 film of the same name, Sam says audiences should prepare themselves for a whole new version.
“It’s a new set, new costumes, new songs, it’s got a much younger feel.
“There’s a lot more topless men, dancing and tricks,” explains the former Eastenders actor.
As well as new spectacles to look forward to, Sam says theatre-goers can also enjoy a more in-depth plot.
“It goes more into the story behind the musical too,” he said.
“In so many musicals people just break into dance for no reason, but the choreography with this all relates to the story.
“It looks more into why Adam is the way he is, the reason as to why he’s so stern.
“His parents died and he has to bring up his six brothers. Then Millie comes in and gets in the way.
“There’s a new song which looks into the background of that in more detail than in previous versions of the musical.
“There’s also an underlying story as to why people were in Oregon at that time.
“They were giving away land, it was a chance for people to make a new life. But not everyone survived that journey.”
The story revolves around Adam, the eldest of seven brothers living in the rural backwoods, who goes to town to get himself a wife.
Convincing Milly to marry him that very same day, he forgets to mention he has six brothers – all living together in his cabin.
Milly decides to reform the uncouth siblings, who are anxious to get wives of their own.
Then, after reading about the Roman capture of the Sabine women, Adam has what he thinks is an inspired solution to his brothers’ loneliness – they will kidnap the women they want.
Music featured in the new version, which is choreographed by acclaimed Broadway director Patti Colombo, includes Bless Your Beautiful Hide, A Woman Ought to Know Her Place and Goin’ Courtin’.
For Sam it’s a role he’s been waiting to play for some time.
“I did Seven Brides at college, but I didn’t get to play a lead role so it’s great to finally play Adam,” he explained.
“The new show’s been getting a great response, we’ve been getting standing ovations most nights, which is quite rare.”
Life has come full circle for Sam whose initial interest in acting was sparked by the 50’s film which inspired the musical.
“I first saw the film starring Howard Keel when I was 10 and knew I wanted to perform in musical theatre,” Sam explains.
“My parents were incredibly supportive and I left home at 16 to train at the famous Italia Conti School.”
Sam went on to establish himself as an actor playing Ricky in Hollyoaks and Leon Small in Eastenders, but he says he’s enjoying his time treading the boards now.
Before joining Seven Brides, he played Brad Majors in the 40th anniversary tour of The Rocky Horror Show and also appeared in the stage musicals Dreamboats and Petticoats in the West End, Tonight’s the Night and 20th Century Boy.
“What’s great about theatre is that it’s live so anything can go wrong, it’s so exciting and your adrenalin runs really high.
“I love TV too, that’s a different kind of excitement,” he explained.
It was winning Dancing on Ice in 2011, where he met fiancée and pro-skater, Vicky Ogden, which marked a turning point in his career.
“After doing Eastenders everyone knew me as Leon and people called me that in the street,” he said.
“It was nice to be recognised like that. But Dancing on Ice gave me my identity back and everyone knows me as Sam now. And of course I met my partner there too.”
Speaking about his time on the hit ITV show, he said: “You train for three hours a day doing something that is completely alien to you, your body hurts in ways you didn’t think it could hurt.
“The ice isn’t forgiving, it’s very painful and I think it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But you get great rewards from it.”
* Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is at Sunderland Empire from Monday until Saturday.
Tickets priced £10 - £29.50 are available from Tel. 0844 871 3022 and online at www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland.
WIN tickets to see Sam on stage
We’ve teamed up with Sunderland Empire to give away a pair of tickets for Tuesday night’s performance of the show.
To be in with a chance of winning, answer this question: Which celebrity talent show did Sam Attwater win?
A) Dancing on Ice
B) Strictly Come Dancing
C) Celebrity Big Brother.
Email your answer to Katy.Wheeler@Jpress.co.uk.
Closing date: 9am on Tuesday.