Monday, July 09, 2012

Legally Blonde

OMG…LEGALLY BLONDE delights at Beck

It’s been quite a year at the Beck Center! Earlier in the season the startlingly good SPRING AWAKENING captivated audiences. Dorothy Silver, the grand dame of Cleveland theatre, spun her web of talent over THE VELOCITY OF AUTUMN. BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON with Dan Folino is rocking the complex’s Studio Theater in an extended run, and now LEGALLY BLONDE opened with an eye focused on audiences in the Mackey Theatre.

With music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin, and book by Heather Hach, LEGALLY BLONDE THE MUSICAL is based on Amanda Brown’s novel and the 2001 film of the same name.

This is one of those feel good, sit back and enjoy yourself musicals. It takes you on a journey with Ella, a “dumb blonde” Barbie-type Malibu, CA, sorority girl (Omigod You Guys) who enrolls at Harvard Law School (The Harvard Variations). Why Harvard? To get a degree, right? Wrong. She is pursuing Warner, her former boy friend, who has abandoned her as he chases after not only a legal degree, but the perfect wife for a future political career.

In the process Elle discovers that she is more than just a dumb blonde, and can use her newly discovered knowledge to both help others and prove that instincts (Gay or European?), as well as intelligence (Scene of the Crime), go a long way toward finding happiness.

Though it sounds like a light-weight offering, the show earned seven Tony Award nominations and numerous Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle recognitions. It has a delightful and well-developed score, clearly etched characters, and, in the hands of the right production team and actors, can light up the stage.

Beck has all the elements that make this a top notch production. Scott Spence’s directing is spot on. The characterizations are generally clear and the pacing excellent. Larry Goodpaster’s musical direction works the score to perfection and his orchestra is well tuned. The star of the evening is Martin Céspedes’s choreography. The dancing weaves in and out the scenes, making the show flow. His crew of dancers are not necessarily Broadway bound, but he gets the best from them using varying dance modes that well fit the rock/pop/contemporary music.

David Glowe’s costumes are generally good, but sometimes his pinks, a signature requirement for the show, wander off into strange shades that don’t always work together. Ben Needham’s fragmented multi-level set design works nicely and unites the scenes. The set crew makes the changes fluid. Trad Burns’ lighting enhances the moods.

One of the few problems with the show, the afternoon I saw it, was the shrill level of the sound system at the start of the show. This, when added to the opening number’s high pitched singing, made for an ear-piercing experience.

Caitlin Elizabeth Reilly adds a dimension to Elle I’ve not seen in other productions of the show. Reilly starts Elle off as a ditz, but nicely transitions her into a blonde with brains. Not only her acting transitions, but her singing changes as the character gains a strong sense of self.

Jamie Koeth makes Emmett, Elle’s mentor, a real person, with honest motivations. Chip on My Shoulder, sung with Elle, was nicely done.

Kimberly Bush almost steals the show as Paulette, Elle’s hair stylist and friend. Her Ireland was delightful, as was Bend and Snap, which was a show stopper.

Caitlin Rose, (Enid) and Katie Zarecki (Vivienne) were excellent.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Beck’s LEGALLY BLONDE THE MUSICAL makes for a delightful evening/afternoon of entertainment. The cast is generally excellent, the script fun, the score good, and the chorography outstanding! Go see this one!