Songbook opens as Helena hunts six more brides

Seven Brides For Seven Brothers  Goin' Courtin' Helena Blackman (Milly) and the Brothers  Photo Geraint Lewis
Seven Brides For Seven Brothers Goin' Courtin' Helena Blackman (Milly) and the Brothers Photo Geraint Lewis

Toe-tapping frontier musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers comes to the Lyceum Theatre next week bringing some classics from the Great American Songbook such as Bless Your Beautiful Hide, Wonderful Day and Spring, Spring, Spring.

Set in Oregon in 1850, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers tells the story of Adam, the eldest of seven brothers, who goes to town to get himself a wife and convinces Milly to marry him the very same day. They return to his backwoods home and only then does she discover he has six brothers – all living in his cabin.

So, as the title implies, she sets out on a quest to put that right.

The show is thus unusual in that it isn’t about the leading lady falling in love because she finds her man at the start.

“It’s more about staying in love,” agrees the actress playing Milly, Helena Blackman, runner-up in How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?

“It’s an ensemble show, we are a big cast. There’s 30 of us,” she says.

“I had seen Seven Brides but not recently which I think is a good thing. You’re not influenced by what’s been done before and it’s always nice to put your own stamp on something.”

As a soprano Blackman has had to adjust her voice to sing a part written in a different vocal register. “It’s much more speech-driven and character led so there is a different voice level to find,” she explains. “Every show you do is vocally challenging and slightly different. It’s a question of training your voice like a runner has to teach their body to get used to running a different kind of race.”

Playing opposite her as Adam is Sam Attwater, the former EastEnder who is currently taking part in Dancing on Ice which means he is having to miss Saturday performances.

“Yes, he keeps getting through, bless him,” says Blackman. “It’s not a problem because his understudy, Alex, is fabulous and ready to step in. It doesn’t make a difference to me who I am performing with.”

On a long tour understudies often have to step in because of illness or other reasons, she points out. “People can go down at any point and we are set up so we can make adjustments and everyone can cover for everyone else. We are a well drilled and well-oiled machine.

“It’s a very busy show and very hectic and when you are working so hard there’s little chance of falling out,” suggests Blackman who has been in Seven Brides since last August. “But there as nice a bunch of people as you could get.”

And all the hard work earns its rewards. “In Dublin last week we did eight shows and got eight standing ovations which is something I have never seen before.”

Blackman ’s breakthrough came on the TV reality show, How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? in 2006. It was the first of its kind so presumably she went into it not knowing where it would lead?

“None of us knew what to expect but I am glad I did it,” she says, and no wonder because it has transformed her career. “That was six years ago and one job only lasts for that one job and then you must start all over again. You have to keep climbing the ladder to the next level.”

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is at the Lyceum Theatre from Monday to Saturday.