SEATTLE -- When Oliver Woodhall left the final dress rehearsal of Dirty Little Showtunesat Re-bar two weeks ago during intermission, it wasn't because he wasn't happy with the show which he had choreographed. He had to dash across town to a first run-through of Seven Brides For Seven Brothers at Civic Light Opera, which he directed and choreographed, and which opens there Apr. 23 for a four week run.
"The audience surveys at CLO last year" he explains "wanted to see Seven Brides done more than any other. That means high expectations. So I approached Michael Kidd (the choreographer of the classic MGM film version) and asked if i could use some of his stuff. Well, he said use anything you want, and I haven't hesitated."
Woodhall, a former New York stage dancer in such shows as The Tap Dance Kid, Harrigan n' Hart and 42nd Street fell in love with Seattle during a stop on the national tour of The Secret Garden and moved here shortly thereafter. His first dance mentor was the legendary Agnes de Mille, with whose company he danced for several seasons. Then there were several seasons with the L.A. CLO in such shows as On A Clear Day . . . with Robert Goulet and Joanna Gleason, and Sugar in which he understudied Bobby Morse, and then on to Broadway.
The influence of de Mille, Kidd, Danny Daniels, Gower Champion and Joe Layton are all felt in Woodhall's work, whether he is spoofing their work as in DLST or sincerely recreating it as in 7 Brides., which is Woodhall's third project for CLO, preceded by his musical staging for their Secret Garden, and direction and choreography of A Grand Night For Singing.
Woodhall agreed to stage the numbers in revival of DLST, though he misses performing in it as he did during the show's first run here last fall. His work has been amply recognized by the local critics, and he likes challenging the young performers in Seven Brides with the at times punishing choreography, which is largely Kid-inspired but with a few definite tips of the hat to de Mille. "The audiences really wanted to see this show, and we're giving it to them, hopefully as entertainingly as they remember it." And what will Woodhall do now, with both shows running and no more rehearsals? "Gee, I don't know", he muses with a wicked gleam in his eyes, "Maybe have a nice nervous breakdown?" Seven Brides for Seven Brothers opens Apr. 23 at 8 PM, and runs Friday and Saturday nights at 8 PM and Sunday matinees at 2:30 PM through Saturday May 16. CLO performs at The Jane Addams Theatre 11051 34th NE in Lake City. For tickets ($12-$18 call (206) 363-2809.
-- By David-Edward Hughes