Sunday, March 26, 2017

"Legally Blonde The Musical" Now showing At James F. Dean Theatre--It Is Walkaway Feel Good Entertaining

In 2001, the film Legally Blonde, starring Reese Witherspoon, was released. For the most part, the consensus from the critics was positive based not on material, but performance, stating "though the material is predictable and formulaic, Reese Witherspoon's funny, nuanced performance makes this movie better than it would have been otherwise." Despite receiving positive reviews, I would not have paid the price of a ticket to see it at the theater, and my reason is a simple one, it just isn't my genre of movie.

Then, in 2007, Legally Blonde moved to the stage and opened on Broadway as Legally Blonde The Musical. Now, we have a curtain of a different color. As an avid theater goer, my interest was stirred. By the way, the color is Elle Woods' signature color, pink, and it will be splashed all over the stage of the James F. Dean Theatre in Summerville for the next three weekends.

In 2007, the original release of Legally Blonde The Musical, music and lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin, received seven Tony nominations and ten Drama Desk nominations but did not win any. In 2010, it moved to the Savoy Theatre and The West End production was nominated for five Laurence Olivier Awards and won three, including the Best New Musical award. In drawing a comparison between the movie and the musical, one critic wrote, "It is, of course, preposterous: an LA fashion student conquers Harvard law school and becomes a courtroom star. But, for all its absurdity, I found this Broadway musical infinitely more enjoyable than the 2001 Hollywood movie on which it is based."

The opening night presentation of Legally Blonde The Musical at the James F. Dean Theatre was everything I expected from a Chrissy Eliason and David McLaughlin collaboration, even exceeding my expectations. Director Chrissy's penchant for relevant subtleties was unmistakable from set change to set change and David Mclaughlin's high energy approach to vocals as Musical Director supercharged the theater atmosphere with high spirited zing leaving the full house gushing in the pink with joy. The duo, with the assistance of Choreographer Ethan Goodman and Dance Captain Tiffany Eliason, squeezed every bit of immonium thygocolate from the plays talented and substantially youthful cast.

The cast more than willingly complied as they bent and snapped to the lighthearted and glitzy-ditzy script with Red Bull infused enthusiasm. From the opening number of "Omigod You Guys" to the appearance of the Delta Nu Queen of the Show, Elle Woods, the audience was primed and readied for what was yet to come, and Taylor Ann Spencer delivered the goods, or should I say, won the case. From head to toe the perfect Elle, her Disney influence was unmistakable. With clear vocals and striking body language complimented by dazzling wardrobe changes (designed by herself), Ann sang and danced her way into the hearts of everyone present.

The capable supporting cast includes accomplished musician John Henry Braun as Warner--Elle's I'll follow you anywhere, in this case Harvard, ex-boyfriend, sassy S. E. Coy as Vivienne Kensington--her antagonistic rival for Warner, Charleston native Matthew Walker as the corduroy wearing Emmett--the geeky student lawyer who takes Elle under his wing and helps her realize that she is more than a pink dress, Starbucks Manager Carlos Nieto as the self important and scumbag Callahan, Rebecca Wetherby as I've got a secret Brooke Wyndham, Jennifer Kliner as the under appreciated Enid Hoopes--Elle's dowdy lesbian classmate with extreme feminist views, and vocal powerhouse Sarah Daniel as Paulette, the lovable love-bruised manicurist with a heavy accent and new best friend of Elle at Hair Affair.

Carlos Nieto, rivaled only by John Henry for neatest head of hair, shined in the musical number "Blood in the Water," while Sarah Daniel blew the roof off the theater in her finale of "Ireland." Dustin Lack garnered uproarious laughs for his brief appearances as Paulette's trailer-trashed ex-boyfriend, Dewey and as her new Irish love interest, delivery man Kyle. Rebecca Wetherby whipped up a wicked routine of jump-rope and still had enough breath to sing. Tiffany Eliason, Allison Lee Zobel Brower, and Melissa Frierson, Elle's overjoyed sorority sisters, were vivacious and vibrant. I have to add some parts of the play went to the dogs, and their names are Bruiser and Rufus--two canines with stage presence.

Baily Gaines as Chutney
Truth be told, in time, I did unintentionally see the movie on TV, and after viewing the Flowertown Player's production of Legally Blonde The Musical, omygod, I have to agree with the critic's assessment, it is infinitely more enjoyable, and the cast and crew made sure of that. Despite the plays perfumed plot, buried under all the pink is a moral to the story. Elle's own words, "Don't judge a book by its cover," repeats an old adage warning not to a judge people based on looks, but she adds, "books with tattered covers stay on the shelf." Then, there is the "bend and snap"--a cheer leading move with real world applications. Apparently, it is a knock-out of a move to get the attention of a guy, but it also catches criminals. Don't know what I am talking about in either case, see the play. You will not regret it. It is walkaway feel good entertaining and you just may throw in a couple steps from the Irish River Dance.

Congratulation to the entire cast.

Dates and showtimes: March 24, 25, 30, 31, April 1, 6, 7, 8, 2017 at 8PM
March 26, April 2 and 9, 2017 at 3PM

Purchase tickets.

Crew not already mentioned:
Kelsey Palmer-Stage Manager/Props Master
Caitlin Skowronski-Assistant Stage Manager/Sound Operator
Nicole Harrison-Costume Design
Technical director-Ernie Eliason
Robert Venne-Set Designer/Painter
Lighting Designer/Light Board Operator-Jean Gaston
Spot Light Operator-Jeff Wolf
Artistic Director-JC Conway

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