Wednesday, July 31, 2013

LEGALLY BLONDE, THE MUSICAL • Stages St. Louis

"Legally Blonde, The Musical" was adapted from the 2001 film and premiered on Broadway in 2007 after a San Francisco tryout.  This female empowerment flavored confection about Elle Woods, a Malibu sorority girl who gains admission to Harvard Law School in an attempt to win her ex-boyfriend back, capitalizes on the popular girl power themes that charged the 2003 sensation, "Wicked", and wraps its central theme within high-octane choreography and lots of valley-girl pink.  Pinkness.  Pink-ti-tude?

The driving force behind the current Stages production is the tireless Michelle London as Elle.  She's got strong pipes, dances wonderfully, looks perfect, and brings a great deal of personality to a demanding role.  After the opening number, one of the show's most memorable, "Omigod You Guys",  Elle prepares for a proposal of marriage from her self-absorbed boyfriend, Warner Huntington III (Brandon Davidson).  What she gets, is dumped.  Warner needs a "serious girl" and Elle doesn't fit the bill.  Buoyed by her Delta Nu sisters, particularly her own personal Greek chorus -- Margot (Melinda Cowan), Serena (Julia Johanos) and Pilar (Sarah Rolleston), Elle decides to follow Warner into Harvard Law to prove that she can be more brains and less bombshell.

Michelle London (Elle Woods) and Company.
Photo credit: Peter Wochniak
With the help of her sorority pals, cheerleaders and a marching band, this fashion merchandising major wins over the admissions committee and is accepted.  She gets advice and encouragement along the way from Paulette (Heather Jane Rolff), a local hairdresser who becomes a good friend.  Paulette listens to Enya when she gets blue over the dog that remains with her ex-boyfriend, and Rolff wins over the audience with her rendition of "Ireland", where she dreams of a big hunky guy she can dance with -- Riverdance style, without moving their arms.  Elle also meets Emmett Forrest (Ben Nordstrom), a scrappy, corduroy blazer wearing hard worker who hasn't had anything handed to him.  Nordstrom adds an authentically likable quality to Emmett, who is an intern of Professor Callahan's (a perfectly callous David Schmittou).  When fitness queen, Brooke Wyndham (Nicolette Hart), is found with blood on her hands and a dead, rich husband, it's up to Callahan and his young law students to win her case.

Michelle London (Elle Woods)
and Heather Jane Rolff (Paulette).
Photo credit: Peter Wochniak
The company is a vigorous bunch and everyone turns in first-rate performances.  In addition to Rolff, who is a standout in the role of Paulette, Cowan, Johanos and Rolleston all do great work as Elle's Greek chorus, and Nicolette Hart is commanding as Brooke Wyndham with some crazy jump-roping skills.  Great work also from Steve Isom, who admirably pulls off a number of roles, and Laura Ernst, who makes a humorous impression as Elle’s mother, wearing an indelible, toothy, "Real Housewives of Orange County" grin.  Also, I couldn't help making those noises you make when you see cute dogs for Jose and Romeo as Bruiser and Rufus.  Rusty Mowery thoroughly recreates Jerry Mitchell's original choreography, and while Lou Bird's costume design complements the characters, Matthew McCarthy's lighting bathes James Wolk's set with vibrant color.

So, if you're in the mood to sit back, be entertained, and get your sugar rush on, head over to Stages before the 18th!


Michelle London (Elle Woods)
and Brandon Davidson (Warner Huntington III).
Photo credit: Peter Wochniak
LEGALLY BLONDE, THE MUSICAL

Book Heather Hach
Music/lyrics by Nell Benjamin and Laurence O'Keefe
Directed by Michael Hamilton
The Robert Reim Theatre, 111 South Geyer Road
through August 18 | tickets: $20 - $55
Performances Tuesday to Saturday at 8pm, Saturdays at 4pm, selected Wednesdays at 2pm, selected Sundays at 2pm and 7:30pm

Cast:
Becca Andrews* (Kate/Chutney), Stephen Barnowski (Lowell/Bailiff), Adam Brown* (Jason/Kiki), Melinda Cowan* (Margot), Patrick David* (Nick), Brandon Davidson* (Warner Huntington III), Laura Ernst (Elle’s Mom/Boutique Manager/Whitney), Gaby Gamache* (Leilani), Joe Grandy* (Chad/Carlos), Scott Guthrie* (Dewey/Kyle), Brittany Rose Hammond* (Gabby/Mousey Client/Stenographer), Nicolette Hart* (Shandi/Brooke Wyndham), Austin Hohnke* (Aaron/Guard), Steve Isom* (Elle’s Dad/Winthrop/T.V. Reporter), Julia Johanos* (Serena), Erik Keiser* (Padamadan/Nikos), Jonathan Kwock (Paul), Michelle London* (Elle Woods), Natalie Newman* (Cece/D.A. Joyce Riley), Ben Nordstrom* (Emmett Forrest), Shannon O’Boyle* (Vivienne Kensington), Pamela Reckamp* (Courtney/Judge), Heather Jane Rolff* (Paulette), Sarah Rolleston* (Pilar), Kathleen Rooney* (Kristine), David Schmittou* (Professor Callahan) Katy Tibbets* (Enid Hoopes), Jose (Bruiser) and Romeo (Rufus).
* Member Actors' Equity Association

Heather Jane Rolff (Paulette), Scott Guthrie (Kyle)
and Romeo (Rufus).
Photo credit: Peter Wochniak
Creative:
Choreography recreated by Rusty Mowery; musical direction by Lisa Campbell Albert; scenic design by James Wolk; costume design by Lou Bird; lighting design by Matthew McCarthy; stage manager, Stacy A. Blackburn.

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