Riverside Dinner Theater Legally Blonde the MusicalBy Jennifer Gusso • May 16th, 2013 • Category: Reviews
Riverside Dinner Theater: (Info) (Web)
Riverside Center, Fredericksburg, VA
Through June 16th
2:30 with intermission
Reviewed May 11th, 2013
Legally Blonde the Musical is a fun adaptation of the light-hearted Reese Witherspoon film that is filled with a catchy score and energetic good times. Riverside Dinner Theatre delivers a solid production; however, it never quite takes off to the level of “WOW.” Most of the elements are strong but stop just short of excellent.
This is especially true for the set. With detailed, beautiful set pieces, such as the Harvard books, set upon an otherwise blank stage with an unlit cyc in the back, it is like they had all the elements right and never quite figured out how to put them all together. There were several times that the set looked bare or just not quite finished, despite nice details in other areas. The lighting didn’t help to solve the issue, as it was also very simple and rarely used to build the location or the mood. Costumes were equally hit or miss. While some pieces were just perfect, ending with Elle in an ill-fitting tweed jacket over a dress that did not scream “fashionista” or even lawyer was a less than ideal choice. Also, when the line talks about Vivienne’s flat shoes, she should be wearing flats. It was, in many ways, a lack of careful attention to minor technical details that keep the production from soaring to the next level.
Julie Baird’s Elle was also almost great. Baird is a fierce dancer, a solid vocalist, and created a consistent character. She definitely reached her zenith in the number “Legally Blonde,” bringing a real depth of emotion to the apparent defeat of her character. Baird just lacked that little something extra special that makes Elle — Elle. It is that charm, that twinkle, which makes you want to watch her every move and become her best friend that is critical to the character. Baird really did everything right, but she just didn’t have that “something more.”
On the other hand, Emily Blair Powers did. Her Paulette is delightful. She is real, funny, charming, and has a beautiful voice. Paulette brought laughter and tears throughout the show. Another fantastic performance came from Emily Turner Marsland (Brooke). She, never for a single second, looked winded as she skillfully and swiftly jumped her way through “Whipped Into Shaped,” so much so that she could freeze solidly without any heavy breathing. She also managed to have excellent vocals throughout the dance and filled the rest of the show with a memorable character. Also great was Jason J. Michael’s Callahan. He was charming, wicked, and sleazy. His “Blood on the Water” was the perfect mix of beautiful vocals and slime. As Enid, Ellie Borzilleri took a smaller role and made it phenomenal. From her impressive vocals in “Harvard Variations” to perfect delivery on one-liners to priceless facial reactions to what was going on around her, Enid became the character to watch.
Supporting roles can be really pivotal. In Legally Blonde, possibly none more so than Margot, Serena, and Pilar. While it is so easy to take the importance of those characters for granted when they are played by exceptional actresses, their true necessity is unfortunately more apparent in their weakness. Martha Johnson (Margot) was not good, and she was the first person that the audience saw and heard. This started the production off needing to overcome a weakness. While Emily Carper and especially Mary Anne Furey were not bad, neither had quite the strength and presence to really make any part of the trio pop. In a few places in the second act, notably “Bend and Snap,” Furey gave glimpses of potential to be stronger with better direction or better counterparts.
Glimpses of greatness were also seen in the solid, but not spectacular, performances of David Pope (Warner), Analisa Wall (Vivienne), and James Bock (Emmett). Pope looked the part, had a beautiful voice, and almost embodied the perfect balance between cocky and charm. Wall was perfectly stiff throughout with a powerhouse voice, but she never mastered the art of showing the subtle subtext that Vivienne is a real person and not just an ice queen. Like his leading lady, Bock was doing almost everything right without ever quite reaching captivating. He also found his best moment in “Legally Blonde.”
This was a good production. The average, non-critical audience member will have a good time. This just wasn’t the flawless, Broadway in Fredericksburg quality that Riverside Dinner Theatre has made a reputation around. It was almost there in so many ways. With minor technical and artistic redirection and regrouping and maybe one recasting, it could still ascend to that level before the end of the run.
Photos provided by Riverside Dinner Theater
Disclaimer: Riverside Dinner Theater provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/9492.
Jennifer Gusso has been involved in theatre in the state of Maryland and DC for most of her life. She has acted, directed, choreographed, stage managed, and held a million other odd jobs. She has a B.S. in English from Towson University, and is currently pursuing her Master's Degree to become a Reading Specialist. She is a Maryland State Certified English, Theatre, Elementary, and Mathematics Educator. After teaching English and Drama for many years, she now teaches 6th grade Language Arts at Magnolia Middle School in Harford County, Maryland. She wrote the curriculum currently used in Prince George’s County Public Schools for Drama I and Drama II. She now writes and directs plays and musical for use in church.