Monday, July 13, 2015

reviews - LEGALLY BLONDE - Arizona Broadway Theatre

Leanne Smith and the Legally Blonde cast
photo: Arizona Broadway Theatre

highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)  

Click here for more information on this production that runs through August 9th

 "Legally Blonde burst onto ABT’s stage this weekend with all the energy and sparkling glitz of a confetti cannon...The sheer exuberance and bubbling vigor of that musical opener, coupled with the airhead humor of the lyrics, win you over within seconds of the curtain rising...The musical follows the same route as the film.  West coast boyfriend Warner dumps Elle as he prepares to enter east coast Harvard Law School.  In an effort to win him back, Elle enrolls in the same Cambridge university, and by hard work and a truly unconventional resume presentation to the law school academia, she’s accepted....What makes ABT’s production work so well is the total commitment of the cast.  As if fully aware that the whole thing is intentionally empty-headed trifle, the performers attack their roles with the flawless energy of that battery bunny that keeps going and going....With a clear voice and a well-groomed, distinguished appearance, Jesse Berger makes the perfect shark-like figure of authority as Professor Callahan, the man who kicks Elle out of his class on her first day.  Abigail Raye as Paulette, the owner of the nearby Hair Affair salon, steals every moment she’s on, milking everything she does with as many crowd-pleasing, broad gestures as she can muster...Jesse Michels makes a likable Emmett Forrest, the good guy law student who, as everyone will know the moment he arrives, will eventually be the one for Elle.  Glen North, with his handsome good looks and his character’s privileged and overall bland, male model demeanor, is exactly what’s required of Warner, while Trisha Ditsworth delightfully plays against type as the law student with a preference for pants instead of dresses, Enid Hoopes....But the show stands or falls with the casting of its leading lady, Elle Woods.  With her thick tresses of long, blonde hair, shapely pink outfits and an appropriately sounding girlie voice, Leanne Smith has that same winning personality that Reese Witherspoon brought to the screen and Laura Bell Bundy brought to Broadway.  She’s terrific and shines with or without her pink spotlight.  Director Carl Rajotte keeps the production moving smoothly from scene to scene without a moment’s pause, or a breath for that matter.  He demands a lot of his cast with his vigorous hip-thrusting, arm waving, finger-snapping choreography, and, with breath-taking sharpness of movement that can only come with training and hours upon hours of rehearsal, the cast delivers.  When Adam Shaff as Kyle, the UPS guy with his oversized package for Paulette reveals his inner Michael Flately and breaks out with the rest of the cast for what seems like an impromptu moment from Riverdance, the audience roared.The whole affair is total fluff; seaside candy floss in a blonde wig, and it’s irresistible." -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

"The 2001 film comedy Legally Blonde, starring Reese Witherspoon, was a sleeper hit at the box office. The story follows the very blonde and very likable Elle Woods who follows her boyfriend to Harvard Law School after he jilts her, in an attempt to win him back. In 2007 the film was turned into a big Broadway musical with an infectious score by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin. Arizona Broadway Theatre's production is a non-stop joy...While Elle may not be "serious" enough for her boyfriend Warner to consider her marriage material, she gets support from her sorority sisters, her Harvard teaching assistant Emmett, and the slightly wacky beautician Paulette whom she befriends in Boston. With their help, Elle works through her setbacks and relishes her triumphs, and along the way realizes she's a lot smarter than she thought she was. She also ends up helping all of those close to her with their own personal issues. Hach's hilarious book and O'Keefe and Benjamin's witty, varied music and lyrics create a fun, upbeat story of empowerment and being true to yourself.
... Leanne Smith effectively brings Elle to vibrant life and allows us to see and understand her foibles while adding some comedy to her more tragic moments and plenty of heart to her triumphs. Smith also has a rich, soaring voice that makes the most of the sharp lyrics in the score. It is a multi-faceted take on the part that succeeds very well....As Emmett, Jesse Michels might be a little too handsome to play the romantic underdog, but he still manages a nice transformation from the frumpy TA to the man who lets Elle see who she truly can be. Michels also has a clear, strong voice. Abigail Raye is a hoot as Paulette. With a decent Boston accent and a kooky way of delivering a line she wrings the humor out of her scenes but also brings plenty of charm to her songs, with her powerful pipes sending her solo "Ireland" soaring to the rafters....In the supporting cast, Glen North makes Warner an egotistical snob who also learns a few lessons, and North adds some dimension to Warner to make him likable, even if at first we don't care for him. As the slimy law professor Callahan, Jesse Berger has plenty of snark and smarm beneath his well-tailored suit and his deep vocals really bring a smoothness to Callahan's songs. Lynzee Jaye Paul 4man brings plenty of spark to the workout video star and accused murderess Brooke Wyndham, and Trisha Ditsworth gets some laughs with her well-timed line delivery as the lesbian-feminist Enid Hoops. Sarah Ambrose as Warner's new girlfriend Vivienne has the right amount of coldness in her initial dealings with Elle, yet lets us warm to her just as she sees that Elle is smarter than she originally thought. Ambrose also gets to wail during the curtain call. Adam Shaff brings plenty of heat as the hunky UPS delivery man who warms Paulette's heart, and Kara Krichman, Carly Grossman, and Gabriella Whiting add plenty of spark and sass as Elle's "Greek chorus" of sorority sisters....Director/choreographer Carl Rajotte has not only found a great cast composed of a mix of both local and regional performers who all work well together to bring out the humor and heart of the story, but his swift direction keeps the show moving at such a fast clip that the musical's somewhat overstuffed plot never gets in the way. Rajotte's choreography is superb, with always changing dance steps that feature plenty of comical moments...While, unlike most ABT shows, the sets, costumes and props for this production are rentals, they are great designs and work well with Tim Monson's vibrant lighting design. ...With fluid direction, a really solid cast and bright, and colorful creative elements, ABT's Legally Blonde is a fun, infectious production full of heart and humor." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

""Being true to yourself never goes out of style." STYLE, in big capital letters, is the key word for Arizona Broadway Theatre's staging of Legally Blonde, and the message is the driving subtext of this lighthearted but incisive musical comedy about self-esteem and empowerment....For Elle (Woods), with a 4.0 in fashion merchandising, it's the camaraderie of her sisterhood that buoys her spirits and encourages her to apply to Harvard Law School in the hopes of winning back her self-possessed Richie Rich-ish boyfriend, Warner Huntington III ...Her next battle is to overcome the snobbish judgmentalism of her classmates and to realize just how unworthy Warner...is of her love....Smith is an energetic presence, playing Elle with a perfect balance of vulnerability and moxie....The entire cast goes full throttle in this upbeat and delightful show, wrapped in a splendid mix of costumery ..sets and props..., wigs (Amanda Gran), the robust musical direction of Adam Berger, and a cornucopia of jewel performances.... a delightful summertime repast at this terrific dinner theatre..." Herbert Paine, Broadway World (click here to read the complete review)

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