He Made ‘Seven Brides’ Less Sexist. But Can He Stage It?

“Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” features a central plot twist that makes the story problematic for contemporary audiences: A group of ill-mannered brothers kidnaps the women they have been eyeing.

The plot device goes back all the way to ancient times, when it was the theme of a Roman legend called “The Rape of the Sabine Women.” That story inspired paintings (Rubens, et al.), a short story (“The Sobbin’ Women”) and a 1954 musical film later adapted into a 1982 stage musical, which closed on Broadway three days after it opened.

Now, an effort to modernize the story to make it palatable for today’s theatergoers has landed in court.

The dispute centers on a version of the show that was staged in 2021 in St. Louis at the Muny, one of the nation’s biggest musical theater venues. For that staging, David Landay, the only one of the 1982 show’s four writers who is alive, added a prologue and revised the plot so that the women foil the kidnapping attempt but, bored with life in their small town, opt to flee voluntarily with their would-be abductors.

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