Reston Community Players Legally Blonde, The MusicalBy Genie Baskir • Oct 16th, 2012 • Category: Reviews
Reston Community Players
Reston Community Center, Reston, VA
Through November 3rd
2:45 with one intermission
$23/$20 Seniors, Students
Reviewed October 13th, 2012
What do we know after seeing Legally Blonde The Musical? That proper California females are all blonde; they go to college for an MRS. Degree; that they devote themselves to one man who will carry them away to live happily ever after graduation; at least until these men dump the girls; that East Coast wealth is serious and more important and well connected than vulgar West Coast money; that any fashionista addlebrain can take coaching from an equally imbecilic sorority sister and lead a cheer in the admissions office of ….you guessed it….Harvard Law School; that said addlebrain will get admitted to HLS for love and follow the serious East Coast money who dumped her in California for a serious East Coast career. Also, that there is no African-American or Asian talent in sororities. So, a dumb book becomes an equally dumb movie which, in turn, gets adapted to the stage with an off the wall, difficult to sing score.
“Legally Blonde” was a book by Amanda Brown, turned into a film starring Reese Witherspoon and adapted for the stage by Laurence O’Keefe, Nell Benjamin and Heather Hach. A mashup of “The Paper Chase”, “Private Benjamin” and “My Cousin Vinny”, Legally Blonde The Musical manages to set back women’s advancement only about 50 years to the “Animal House” era when female intellectuals were all lesbians or frigid…yes that was the word to describe women who wanted to study and/or didn’t want to marry…and the likes of Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Judge Judy couldn’t get work as legal secretaries, let alone attorneys. Times have changed but the voices of the Princess Generation are determined to keep that secret from all the little girls who cherish their own brains.
The well-established, usually high-quality, Reston Community Players got so excited over this pleasant, but inane, little number that it put more work and manpower into the sets than it did the actors or the show. That being said, RCP’s production of Legally Blonde the Musical is pleasant and inoffensive and follows the fish out of water narrative that expedites most elementary stories. Plus, this show has not one, but two, doggies (Angel Huntley, Francis Xerxes Farms) live on stage not following the program! Gotta love the doggies.
Elle Woods (Maureen Rohn) is rich and blonde and Californian. She is also smart, but 20 years of bleach has pickled her brain and Rohn camps up her Malibu girl to the stratosphere. She is assisted by a Greek chorus of California sorority airheads; all of whom follow her dream instead of their own. Elle so loves her loser of a boyfriend (Nicholas Von Bank) that she manages to get herself admitted to HLS without her father having to build a library or theatre for it and discovers that the boyfriend really is a loser and that she could love the poor but brilliant HLS charity case (Ryan Khatcheressian) who respects her mind, even when she bends over from the waist and shoves her tuches into his face. Elle also manages to get an accused murderess (Courtney Trollinger) acquitted using her cosmetology skills to expose the true perp. However, in the end, this story is all about getting married…to someone, anyone actually, and Elle’s three successful years in law school end with the marriage; no mention of a future beyond the MRS.
Molly Hicks Larson as Paulette the Hairdresser stole the show in every scene, with or without Rufus (Francis Xerxes Farms), a thoroughly charming English Bulldog. Larson shares her triumph with Kyle (Joseph Aquilina), the handsome and muscular UPS delivery route driver who steals Paulette’s heart. The other bright spot in this convivial endeavor was the gay duo (Tomas Huntley, Patrick Graham) camping up their admissions and denials in top comic form. The show does cover a lot of comic ground and the cleverest moments were the ones that occurred without the principals, unfortunately. The exercise choreography (Mark Hidalgo) was a skillful combination and execution in a crosswalk of a mostly pedestrian dance design as the accused, Brooke Wyndham (Courtney Trollinger), demonstrates her fitness proficiency.
Rohn is a great singer, but she is done in by the idiosyncratic score, an analogous “Star Spangled Banner” of impossible tunes that can only be sung in an out-of-body state or else her throat will break. She projects exuberance and sincerity; but she and the other performers deserve better than what RCP and Director Joshua Redmond gave them in this production. The hair salon set was pretty but most of the scenes looked like elementary school scenes hand-lettered and painted by sixth graders on flimsy card stock. Who gave the direction that scene changes had to occur during production numbers? The sets and their movement were actually upstaging the actors. There is some great talent up on that stage and the moving of all those pieces into place coupled with some poor sound operations made the performers difficult to hear whether they were singing or talking. These are all very good performers and they deserved their collective and individual moments without interference from the crew.
David Rohde’s music direction was energetic and his orchestra accompanied the singers without clobbering them. Rohde is one of the best music directors working in community theatre and he does justice to this show where others in production did not. Senseless musicals are the lifeblood of all theatre and the productions and audiences deserve a measure of artistic effort and investment from the production staff even if the show will draw audiences by its very existence and quality is a moot point.
Legally Blonde the Musical is not RCP’s finest moment, but it is not bad either. What it is is a sweet evening out with family and friends, watching talented people taking risks onstage and sincerely wanting to please. Who could have a problem with that?
Photos by Traci J. Brooks
- Elle Woods: Maureen Rohn
- Emmett Forrest: Ryan Khatcheressian
- Warner Huntington Ill: Nicholas Von Bank
- Paulette Buonofuonte: Molly Hicks Larson
- Professor Callahan: Jeff Breslow
- Margot: Evie Korovesis
- Serena: Claire O’Brien
- Pilar: Erica Wisniewski
- Vivienne Kensington: Mimi Preda
- Brooke Wyndham: Courtney Trollinger
- Kate I Chutney: Jaclyn Young
- Enid Hoops: Toby Nelson
- Sundeep Padamadan I Nikos: Tomas Huntley
- Aaron Schultz: Andrew Nguyen
- Kyle: Joseph Aquilina
- Dewey I Carlos: Patrick Graham
- Dad I Winthrop: Chris Borton
- Grandmaster Chad: Jesse Baskin
- Whitney: Rebecca Williams
- Mom: Joy Gardiner
- Store Manager I Judge: Lauren Hill
- Bruiser: Angel Huntley
- Rufus: Francis Xerxes Farms
- Delta Nu Sorority Girls: Sarah Conrad, Lauren Hill, Katie Kerrins, Caroline Simpson, Rebecca Williams
- Band Members, Harvard Students, Inmates, Salespeople, Reporters: Joseph Aquilina Jesse Baskin, Chris Borton, Sarah Conrad, Joy Gardiner, Patrick Graham, Lauren Hill Tomas Huntley, Adrian Johnson Katie Kerrins, Andrew Nguyen, Caroline Simpson, Rebecca Williams, Jaclyn Young
- Conductor: David Rohde
- 12 musicians at each performance
- Keyboards: Matt Jeffrey, David Rohde, Bill VanLear
- Reeds: Mitch Bassman, Dana Gardner, Lindsay Williams
- Trumpet: Daniel Lee, Jose Luis Oviedo, Will Thayer
- Trombone: Scott Fridy, Dan Pendley
- Violin: Audrey Chang, Greg Hiser
- Guitar: Rick Peralta
- Bass: Dave Burrelli
- Percussion: Alex Aucoin, Matt Robotham
- Producer: Jennifer Lambert
- Producer: Sam Nystrom
- Director: Joshua Redford
- Assistant Director: Rich Bird
- Music Director: David Rohde
- Choreographer: Mark Hidalgo
- Stage Manager: Eileen Mullee
- Set Design: James Villarrubia
- Costume Design: Jennifer Lambert, Sam Nystrom
- Associate Costumer: Anne Marie Pinto
- Properties: Mary Jo Ford, Evie Korovesis, Jennifer Lambert
- Set Dressing: Bea and Jerry Morse
- Lighting Designers: Ken and Patti Crowley
- Sound Designer: Rich Bird
- Set Painting: Cathy Rieder, Sabrina Begley, Maggie Cotter
- Hair/Makeup: Jaclyn Young
Disclaimer: Reston Community Players provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review. RCP also purchased advertising on the ShowBizRadio web site, which did not influence this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/8753.
Genie Baskir is a theatrical producer. She worked in radio production and direction for many years and gravitated to theatre when family members became involved with the stage.