note: entire contents copyright 2016 by Tony Annicone
URI's spring musical this year is "Legally Blonde, The Musical" which is based on the Amanda Brown novel and the 2001 movie which starred Reese Witherspoon. It tells the story of Elle Woods, a sorority girl from Delta Nu who is the college sweetheart and homecoming queen who doesn't take no for an answer. So when her boyfriend, Warner dumps her for someone more "serious", she puts down the books, heads for Harvard Law School to win him back. Along the way Elle proves that being true to yourself never goes out of style. She also discovers how her knowledge of law can help others and defends fitness guru, Brooke Wyndham from murder charges. Director Paula McGlasson creates high energy contemporary musical with her keen insight into these comic characters while musical director Lila Kane taught all these musical numbers. She does so while conducting an eight piece orchestra and playing lead keyboards. Choreographer Dante Sciarra supplies the dance numbers that stop the show with their power and execution. Their combined expertise wins the cast a standing ovation at the close of the show.
Paula's blocking of her huge 30 member cast is wonderful. Dante's dance numbers include hip hop, cha cha, line dance, Irish dance, marching and conga to name a few. Two of the funniest dance segments are the exercise dance and the Irish dance section. Lila obtains a fantastic harmonic blend from the cast. Anya Fox is dynamite as Elle Woods. She appears in almost every scene of the show and makes the transition from blonde bubble head sorority girl into a novice lawyer excellently. Her wonderful voice and dancing prowess astound the audience. numbers include "Omigod You Guys" where she thinks she's getting engaged to Warner, "Daughter of Delta Nu" where she gets a pep talk from her sorority sisters, "What You Want" which sounds like "Right in Front of Your Eyes" from "Wedding Singer", where she sings her essay to get into Harvard Law School, "So Much Better" when Elle receives good news at the end of Act 1. Her second act numbers include "Take It Like a Man" when she buys new clothes for Emmett, "Bend and Snap" when she teaches Pauline how to attract the UPS man, then a fantastic poignant duet with Emmett called "Legally Blonde" and touching ballad "Find Your Way" where she finally realizes what is important in life and wins the day. Anya receives a spontaneous standing ovation at the curtain call for her hard work in this role. Brava! (I last reviewed her as a freshman when she played Roxie in "Chicago" at URI.)
Ben Church plays Emmett, the law clerk who understands Elle's plight and tries to help her. He is splendid in this role of sympathetic friend. Ben sings "Harvard Variations" which is about how the law students ended up there at the Ivy League school. It sounds like "The Art of the Possible", Juan Peron's song from "Evita." He also sings "Chip on Your Shoulder" which is his advice to Elle to stop thinking about Warner and concentrate on her law studies. His strong tenor voice soars in his songs as he gives a winning portrayal as this kind and caring individual. Ben has some comic moments including when he cleans up Elle's desk, when he drinks Red Bull, and wears corduroy jackets. His best dramatic moment occurs when Emmett admits his love for Elle in the emotionally draining "Legally Blonde" which leaves the audience in tears. Ben and Anya have great chemistry together. Katherine Riley as Paulette, is the biggest scene stealer in this show. She is a beautiful red head and her first song is "Ireland", a rousing anthem about the kind of men she likes. This song is majestic and resounds throughout the theatre. Some of her comical lines include "Does she have three tits?", "Oh my God, the new UPS man is like walking porn" and "Cheerleaders scare me." The cheerleaders appear to Paulette to teach her how to attract a man in "Bend and Snap", a sure fire way to attract a straight man. Katherine displays her strong jazz voice in this number, winning thunderous applause for it. She and Mark Euell as Kyle, do an excellent Irish step dance in "Legally Blonde" when Paulette finds out Kyle is Irish. Katherine is magnificent in this role.
Glenn Zienowicz is wonderfully smarmy as Professor Callahan who is tough as nails with his students. He displays his voice in "Blood in the Water" where he rules his classroom with an iron fist. Callahan assigns reading for the first class and rules them with fear, shock and awe. In the second act, Glenn sings "Whipped into Shape" about their defense of the exercise queen and later on in the trial sings "There Right There" when he wonders whether Nikos is gay or European. This latter number is reminiscent of a Gilbert and Sullivan patter song with the ensemble joining in on it. The snarky Professor puts the moves on Elle and when she rebuffs him tries to get her fired from the trial. However Callahan receives his comeuppance later on. Jake E. Clarke who is tall, dark and handsome, plays Warner, the rich spoiled ex-boyfriend who dumped Elle. This cad takes up with snooty, Vivienne. His voice is heard in many songs including "Serious" duets with Elle. Jake also has a comic scene where Elle defeats him in a debate and Callahan demands Warner fetch him some coffee. Jake plays the jerky character beautifully. Christine Dickinson as Vivienne, first appears as a bitch on wheels by having Elle thrown out of their first class, by lying about a party being a costume party to humiliate Elle, and continually treats her badly. However, later on when Vivienne observes Callahan sexually harassing Elle, she turns over a new leaf and sings a rock version of "Legally Blonde" with her powerful voice. Christine makes the transition from hard hearted shrew to compassionate person with ease.
Sarah Feeley plays Brooke and does a show stopping jump rope dance to "Whipped into Shape" with the chorus. Brooke and Elle share a secret about her alibi because they are both Delta Nus. Sarah delivers the goods as this mysterious character. Tall, dark and handsome Mark Euell as Kyle, the UPS man who falls in love with Paulette, is marvelous. His walk and strut as the ultra sexy heartthrob is hilarious. Elle's cheerleader friends start off the show with "Omigod, You Guys", a huge production number as well as "What You Want" and "Positive" when they try to cheer Elle up after Warner dumps her. They then appear to Elle in moments of crisis like a Greek chorus but only she can see them. Emma Walker, Daraja Hinds and Valerie Ferris play Margot, Pilar, and Serena and do a terrific job in these roles. Other humorous performers are Amelia Giles as Enid, who has many funny one liners as this feminist character and Belamy Brophy-Baerman as Nikos and Diego Guevara as Carlos add much merriment to the courtroom proceedings with their crazy antics. They do a funny tango at the end of "There Right There" which is a hoot. The ending is a surprise which leaves the audience applauding loudly. Kudos to the cast and crew on a job very well done. So for a rollicking version of a brand new musical, be sure to catch "Legally Blonde" at URI Theatre. Tell them Tony sent you. A word of praise to the phenomenal sets by Cheryl deWardener.