In some ways, Sara Tubbs is nothing like her character.
To portray Millie in “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” which opens this weekend at Circa ‘21 Dinner Playhouse, Tubbs covers her short brunette hair with a long blonde wig and gets into the mindset of a formal-dress wearing woman of the pioneer days.
But in other ways, Tubbs, a Moline-based actor and longtime performer at Circa ‘21 and other area theaters, connects with Millie.
As a mother of three, Tubbs, 36, easily relates to a song Millie sings to her newborn baby: “I just pretend like it’s my kids. They’ll be at some of the shows, so I told them, ‘When Mommy’s singing that song, she’s singing it to you.’”
On that note, she also knows what it’s like keep a bunch of unruly men in line.
“It’s funny because I have two boys at home,” Tubbs said, “So I’ll say something like ‘Boys!” here on stage and then go home and be like, ‘Boys!’ to them.”
And even though more than a century separates them, Tubbs shares another trait with her character.
“Millie has such strength,” she said. “I also consider myself to be a strong woman, so I can relate to her. She reminds me that it’s OK to be a strong woman and stand your ground in what you believe in.”
Indeed, it would take a heavy dose of strength to be Millie.
In the show, after Millie meets — and marries — the woodsman-esque Adam, she discovers her new husband has six wild, ill-mannered brothers.
“She wasn’t expecting that at all,” Tubbs said. “At first, they’re crazy and unkempt and she’s horrified. But then she’s like, ‘Alright, let’s do this.’ She’s not one to ever quit or give up.”
Millie teaches the brothers how to behave better (including how to dance, clean and court a woman) in hopes that they’ll each find their own brides, which they do only to later kidnap them. Don’t worry — Tubbs promises a happy ending.
Her cast-mate, Jon Reinhold, who plays Millie’s husband, Adam, points out that the fast-paced musical, which is based on a 1954 movie of the same name, was ahead of its time in certain aspects.
“They weren’t afraid to show the strength of a woman and have her really take the reins,” he said. “It’s this battle of the sexes in that classic movie musical style. It’s boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy learns something and there’s a reckoning.”
However, parts of the show are more of a stretch for modern times.
“It’s very funny in 2017 to justify seven men carrying seven women off to say, ‘Oh, we’ll just marry them,’ but there’s an innocence to these men,” Reinhold said. “They’re lovable and they learn as they go and there’s something endearing about that.”
Reinhold previously played Adam in “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” six years ago with the Fireside Theatre in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. This production marks his debut to the Circa ‘21 stage. He only learned he got the part about two weeks ago — just in time to fly into the Quad-Cities from New York City for rehearsal.
He’s happy to be returning to the “monster of a show,” which includes a cast of 20 and as many musical numbers.
“There’s more depth to the show than people realize,” Reinhold, 33, said. “There are touching scenes about what it means to be a man, a father, a son, a brother.”
That’s one of the reasons — along with big dance numbers and catchy songs — Reinhold said “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” is still being performed today.
“At the heart of the show, I think it’s remained so popular because it’s light, innocent and it’s a family story,” he said. “You’ll laugh and you’ll cry.”
Plus, it's a fitting show for “anyone who loves a good love story,” Tubbs said.
“You get to see 14 people fall in love,” she said. “And they’re all totally different characters — everyone can relate to at least one of those people.”
That’s the case for the actor, who begins a two-month run of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” on Friday. It runs through Sept. 16.
Earlier this week, Tubbs posted a quote on Instagram that she says was “probably subconsciously” inspired by Millie.
It said something along the lines of: “Every person you meet you can learn from,” which Tubbs considers a lesson learned from her character.
“That's one of the things (Mille) has learned is that she shouldn’t judge people and that we can all learn from each other," she said. "We all learn a lot from our characters. I think that’s one of the things we all love the most about doing theater."