Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Based on the 2001 film that starred Reese Witherspoon, 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. Heather Hach's book follows the film plot almost exactly, which is a good thing, as it establishes well-rounded characters who learn and grow throughout the story. 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.
The score by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin is incredibly upbeat and bouncy with memorable hooks and humorous phrases. Mark 4Man's music direction delivers an abundance of rich musical notes from this very gifted cast while Lynzee 4Man's choreography is a virtual non-stop parade of ever-changing stepsthe act two opener that features intricate jump rope movements is a showstopper. The duo's direction provides a swift pace for the production which ensures that the many plot elements in this plot-heavy show never get in the way, and they also elicit strong performances of humor and heart from all of the actors. My only quibble comes with some scenes that are staged too far away from the audience with various objects, like a table with other diners, in the way of the main focus of the scene. There are also a few ensemble members who aren't mic'd and need to project more in order to be heard over the prerecorded music tracks. Bobby Sample's set and media design works well for the small space, with excellent use of flats that open up to reveal new locations and some very fun media projections on cut-out areas on the back wall. The costumes by Lisa Foreman, Lindsay Puccetti, and Lynzee 4Man, and Trey DeGroodt's hair and make-up designs are smart and fun.
As Elle, Addison Bowman is simply infectious and full of life in a vibrant performance that perfectly blends the comical and serious sides of the character without venturing too far into caricature. Her beautiful voice soars on Elle's many songs in a portrayal that truly succeeds. Sam Primack hits all the right marks as Emmett in a polished performance that features a solid singing voice and subtle acting choices that work well to show both the transformation his character makes and the man who lets Elle see who she truly can be. Bowman and Primack also form a very cute and realistic couple.
Lily Castle is an absolute joy as Paulette, with a stunning singing voice and fun Boston accent that add humor and a big shot of charm to everything Paulette says or sings. Jeremy Bassham provides plenty of snark and a huge ego as the slimy Professor Callahan, while Jacob Herrera gets the right balance of snobbery and uncertainty as Warner. In smaller parts, both Sarah Pansing and Jasmine Bassham are great as Warner's new girlfriend Vivienne and Brooke, an accused murderess Callahan and his students are helping to defend, respectively. Pansing's exceptional voice gets to wail on a couple of songs, and Bassham's performance of that act two opening jump rope routine is stunning. Joey J. Grado is full of heat and passion as the hunky UPS man Paulette gets tongue-tied over, and Ava Tyson, Maya Weber and Alyssa Armstrong are simply hilarious as the "Greek chorus" of Elle's sorority sisters who add moments of spark and sass to their many moments on stage.
With an exceptional cast, succinct direction, and solid creative elements, Spotlight Youth Theatre's Legally Blonde the Musical is a joyous production filled with an abundance of humor but also a huge amount of heart.
Spotlight Youth Theatre's Legally Blonde the Musical runs through June 11th, 2017, with performances at 10620 N 43rd Avenue in Glendale AZ. Tickets and information can be found at www.spotlightyouththeatre.org or by calling 602.843.8318
Directed by Mark and Lynzee 4Man