Theatre Mirror Reviews-"Legally Blonde"

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entire contents copyright 2012 by Tony Annicone

"Legally Blonde"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Summer Stage's musical this year is the blockbuster "Legally Blonde". The show is based on the novel by Amanda Brown and the 2001 film of the same name. 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 'serious', Elle puts down the credit cards, hits the books and 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 discovers her knowledge of the law can help others and defends fitness guru, Brooke Wyndham. The Broadway production opened in April, 2007 and ran until October 19, 2008. Director Brian Codeiro creates a high energy contemporary musical with keen insight into these comic characters, musical director Richie Sylvia taught all the marvelous musical numbers while conducting his topnotch 10 piece orchestra and choreographer Teresa Pearson creates some terrific dance numbers that stop the show with their power and execution. "Legally Blonde" captures the hearts of the crowd from start to finish and wins the cast a spontaneous standing ovation at the close of the night.

Brian's blocking of his huge 41 member cast is wonderful. Richie obtains a beautiful harmonic blend from the cast and his orchestra is topnotch, too. Teresa's choreography of this high energy show is marvelous. Some of her dances include hip hop, cha cha, line dance, Irish dance, an exercise dance, marching and conga line to name a few. The exercise, the Irish dance and Riverdance segments are hilarious. Production manager Alex McKhann and his hard working stage manager, Sara Sheets and crew keep the show running smoothly all night long. Lizzie Bateson is wonderful as Elle. She is a lovely blonde and appears in almost every scene of this show. Lizzie makes the transition form blonde bubble-head sorority girl into a serious novice lawyer beautifully. Her wonderful voice and dancing prowess entrance the audience. Lizzie's numbers include "Omigod You Guys" where she thinks she is engaged to Warner, "Daughter of Delta Nu" where she receives a pep talk from her sorority sisters, "What You Want" which sounds like "Right in Front of Your Eyes' from "The Wedding Singer", is where she sings her essay to be accepted to Harvard, "So Much Better" when she receives good news at the end of Act 1, "Take It Like a Man" when she buys new clothes for Emmett, "Bend and Snap" where she teaches Paulette how to attract a UPS man, "Legally Blonde" a tear jerking duet with Emmett and "Find My Way", a touching song where she finally realizes what is important in her life and wins the day. Lizzie obtains a spontaneous standing ovation from the appreciate crowd on a job well done.

Peter Mancuso plays Emmett, the law clerk who understands Elle's plight and tries to help her out. He is marvelous in this role and sings "Harvard Variations" which is about how the law students ended up at the Ivy League school. It sounds like the Juan Peron song from "Evita. Peter also sings "Chip on Your Shoulder" his advice to Elle to stop thinking about her ex-boyfriend and concentrate on her law studies. He gives a winning portrayal as this kind and caring individual. Peter also has funny moments including when he cleans up Elle's desk, gets hooked on Red Bull, wears corduroy jackets but his best moment comes in the dramatic scene when Emmett finally admits he loves Elle in "Legally Blonde" which leaves the audience in tears. Lizzie and Peter have great chemistry together. Rebecca Hurd as Paulette is the biggest scene stealer in the show. She is a pretty brunette and her first song is "Ireland", a rousing anthem about the kind of men she likes. This powerful song is majestic and resounds throughout the theatre. Some of her funniest lines include "Cheerleaders scare me". The cheerleaders teach Paulette how to attract a man in "Bend and Snap", a sure fire way to attract a straight man. Rebecca shows off her strong jazz voice in this number. She and Brendan McNamara as Kyle do a dynamic Irish step dance in "Legally Blonde" when she finds out Kyle is Irish. Teresa has Brendan dancing the Irish dance with Rebecca in "Ireland", too. Both of them are phenomenal in their roles.

Christian Dessler is smarmy as Professor Callahan, who is tough as nails with his students. He shows off his singing voice in "Blood in the Water". Callahan assigns reading for the first class and rules with fear, shock and awe. In the second act, Christian sings "Whipped Into Shape" about defending the exercise queen and also sings "There, Right There" later on in the trial he wonders if Carlos is gay or European. This song sounds like a Gilbert and Sullivan number and the ensemble sings it with him. Callahan puts the moves on Elle, trying to fire her from the Brooke Wyndham case but finally gets his comeuppance. Ryan Champlin who is tall, dark and handsome, plays Warner. Ryan tackles the role of the boyfriend who dumps Elle and takes up with snooty, Vivienne. His strong voice is heard in several numbers including the "Serious" duets with Lizzie. Ryan also has a funny scene where Elle defeats him in a debate and Callahan demands he get him some coffee. Ryan usually plays good guys in shows but he is a jerky character in this one, showing his versatility as an actor. He will be a freshman at Fairfield University this fall. Julia Paolino as Vivienne, first appears as a bitch on wheels, having Elle thrown out of class. She tells her to dress up for a costume party and also treats her like dirt. She later turns over a new leaf and sings a rock verse of "Legally Blonde Remix", showing off her strong soprano voice. Julia makes the transition from hard hearted shrew to a kinder person with ease.

Alex Andrews plays Brooke and does a show stopping dance to "Whipped Into Shape". Brooke and Elle share a secret about her alibi because they are both Delta Nus. Alex delivers a strong performance in this role. Brendan McNamara is marvelous as Kyle, the UPS man who falls in love with Pauline. His walk and strut as this ultra sexy character is hilarious. He is tall, blond and handsome. Brendan and Rebecca do an outstanding Irish step dance in the show, too. They both give show stopping performances. Elle's cheerleader friends start off the show in "Omigod You Guys", a huge production number with Lizzie and "What You Want", and "Positive" when they try to cheer Elle up after Warner dumps her. They then appear to Elle in her moments of crisis as a Greek Chorus throughout the show, being visible and audible to only her. Jessica Still, Leah Gallo and Rachel Rossetti play Margot, Pilar and Serena and do a terrific job in these roles. The ending is a surprise, leaving the audience cheering wildly. Other humorous performers are Isabella Fielding as Enid who has many funny one liners as this feminist character, Jon Petteruti as Nikos and Colin Murphy as Carlos add much to the merriment to the courtroom antics with their secret agenda. So for a rollicking version of a brand new musical, be sure to catch "Legally Blonde" at Summer Stage.

"Legally Blonde, The Musical" (26 - 29 July)
@ 2615 Warwick Avenue, WARWICK RI
1(401)739-3450 Ext. 172

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide