note: entire contents copyright 2011 by Sheila Barth
I’m not a fan of “Legally Blonde” or its musical score, but the production currently appearing at North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly through Nov. 13 is an energetic, effervescent, infectious pouf of pink fluff that invades and pervades every corner and aisle of the 1,500-seat theater in the round.
The entire cast is talented and funny, and the 11 musicians, led by conductor Eric Alfsford on keyboard, produce a big, brassy, upbeat sound throughout this fast-paced production.
The story is sophomoric, a mindless spoof on glamorous, blonde, true blue UCLA sorority coeds from Malibu, Calif. who shake their pompoms and booty. They “Bend and Snap” to their feminine advantage.
Blonde fashion merchandising major Elle Woods, (nicely played by perky Kelly Felthous) has a 4.0 GPA, wealthy parents, her little dog, Bruiser, her signature pink wardrobe, subscriptions to haute couture and fashion magazines, and a snobbish boyfriend named Warner Huntington III, (Will Ray) whom she expects to propose to her in the opening act. Instead, during a romantic, candlelit dinner, Warner says he’s dumping her for a more serious cause - Harvard Law School - and a more serious girlfriend, Vivienne Kensington (Kate Loprest). Our tenacious heroine isn’t ready to let go, though. Her daddy’s willing to pay her tuition to Harvard Law School so she can get “What You Want” - her true love, Warner, while finding her own way.
Armed with a letter of recommendation from Oprah Winfrey, a solid LSAT score, with credentials like living next door to Richard Simmons and shopping with Beyonce, and a brass band entrance with sis-boom-bah cheerleaders in the aisles and on stage, the blonde bombshell overwhelms Harvard’s admissions team and is accepted. Although Elle has left her Delta Nu sorority sisters, they’re true blue, and telepathically come to her in time of need, like Greek choruses in tragedies. The entire ensemble, male and female, is fantastic, earning kudos for director-choreographer Nick Kenkel, who appeared in the Broadway show and was assistant choreographer.
Elle learns some new tricks at Harvard Law School, mainly from famous lawyer-Professor Callahan, (Paul Jackel), who wryly teaches the students to be sharks and sense “Blood in the Water” to succeed. But Elle must figure things out her own way, using her own instincts. She’s aided by class adviser-student Emmett Forrest, (Barrett Hall), a mild-mannered, seedy-dressed kid from the slums of Roxbury, whose “Chip on My Shoulder” keeps him at the top of the class and in Elle’s corner.
Elle also meets tacky, big-hearted hair stylist Paulette, who’s street-wise, but not exactly Newbury Street. Gaelen Gilliland as Paulette brings down the house in her big number, “Ireland,” and later, when she meets her “walking porn,” UPS dreamy deliveryman, Kyle, whom towering Timothy Hughes portrays with swaggering sensuality. He’s also Paulette’s former 10-year, belching boorish bully boyfriend, Dewey, and lowkey Lowell.
Also noteworthy are Trish Larose as tough-talking lesbian law student Enid, Taryn Darr as accused murderess, MTV physical fitness star Brooke Wyndham, (who coincidentally is a true-blue Delta Nu sister), Frankie Paparone as closeted gay witness Nikos and also Padamadan; and celebrated dog trainer William Berloni’s star students, Chico as Bruiser and Nellie as Paulette’s dog, Rufus.
BOX INFO: Two-act musical by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin, based on Heather Hatch’s book and the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer hit movie, appearing at the North Shore Music Theatre (NSMT), 62 Dunham Road, Beverly, through Nov. 13. Showtimes are Tuesday-Thursday at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Saturday, 8 p.m.; matinees, Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday, at 2 p.m. Check for veterans’ discount performance Nov. 11 and other show-related events. Tickets, $35-$65. Call 978-232-7200, visit www.nsmt.org or the Box Office.