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Review: ‘Legally Blonde’ at The Little Theatre of Alexandria

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The Little Theatre of Alexandria (LTA) production of Legally Blonde is a laugh-fest for summer audiences. Gauging from the hoots and cheers of appreciation at the curtain call, this campy musical – based on the popular MGM movie – will enjoy a great run through August 12th. Don’t delay in getting your tickets, because it will sell out, and that shouldn’t cohme as a surprise.

Carlie Smith as Delta Nu, Ashley Kaplan as Delta Nu, Benita Adams as Pilar, Halle Kaufax as Serena, Rachel Cahoon as Margot, Courtney Caliendo as Delta Nu, Rebecca Weiss as Delta Nu, Heather Gifford as Brooke. Photo courtesy of The Little Theatre of Alexandria.

LTA is known for its WATCH Award-winning productions, and this musical has outstanding singing, dancing, costumes and creative staging which all combine for true entertainment. Its jaunty score and lyrics produce plenty of belly laughs, thanks to the book by Heather Hach and music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Neil Benjamin. This production is keenly directed by Hans Bachmann and produced by Rae A. Edmonson III and Mary Beth Smith-Tooney. You’ll enjoy Legally Blonde’s full blown characters, comic songs and high energy dances, creatively choreographed by Stefan Sittig. Plenty of pizzazz here, folks!

Our fashion-loving, pink obsessed heroine, Elle Woods (Morgan Arrivillaga), grabs your attention in the very first scene with her winning personality, as did all her excitable Delta Nu sorority sisters. The entire ensemble works well with Elle, playing so many different roles throughout the show. Everyone dances with precision, adds “bits” to their characterizations, and clearly blondes aren’t the only ones having fun here.

Katherine Lipovsky plays Paulette, the hair salon owner who quickly befriends Elle. Things turn hilarious when “The UPS Guy” makes his way into Paulette’s shop. Sean Garcia is a real scene stealer here! Their romance is a terrific sub-plot and Lipovsky’s anthem, “Ireland,” almost brought the house down with her powerful pipes and humorous delivery. Their later dance number was a complete crack-up, not to be missed.

Morgan Arrivillaga as Elle Woods, Shawn Cox as Callahan, Marcelo Guzman as Ensemble, Ryan Walker as Ensemble, Rebecca Weiss as Delta Nu, Carlie Smith as Delta Nu, Maria Ciarriocchi as Mom Track. Photo courtesy of The Little Theatre of Alexandria.

Some other bright spots in the cast include the “Greek Chorus” and sorority sisters Margot, Serena and Pilar (played by Rachel Cahoon, Halle Kaufax, and Benita Adams, respectively.) They are wonderfully expressive, super dancers, and collectively they encourage Elle at her lowest moments to keep going strong. Another strong performance is made by Heather Gifford as murder suspect Brooke Wyndham. As a fitness guru, she has abs of steel but also a belter of a singing voice. Her song “Whipped into Shape” is a true workout she does very convincingly as she keeps motivating the ensemble of class takers who exercise behind her. A special shout out to Karen Kelleher as Enid Hoops, the brash Harvard nerd who sometimes is the subject of ridicule. Her intensity brings even more laughs throughout the show.

Warner Huntingon III (Brendan Quinn) plays the would-be fiancé who decides getting “Serious” means dumping Elle, thus sparking her to study at Harvard just to win him back. Quinn’s acting choices show how wrong Warner is for Elle long before she realizes it. Shawn Cox, as Professor Callahan, quickly establishes he’s intimidating and full of himself in the classroom scene where he pontificates on how lawyers are sharks who must search for “Blood in the Water.” In the end, you really, really, won’t like this lawyer, who gives they whole profession a bad name. Also noteworthy is Chris Chaplin, as Nikos in the courtroom scene, the subject of “Gay or European?” His antics echo the comical lyrics and the question is really up for grabs for a bit.

Kaylen Morgan is excellent as Emmett Forrest, the Harvard University Teaching Assistant who helps Elle transform into who she is meant to be. Their friendship blossoms throughout the show and their duets, particularly when they sing together on “Chip on My Shoulder” and “Take it Like a Man,” are fantastic. Arrivillaga and Morgan change costumes during their songs taking place in department stores or dress shops, thanks to clever staging and assistance from cast and crew.

Katherine Lipovsky as Paulette and Sean Garcia as “UPS Guy” Kyle. Photo courtesy of The Little Theatre of Alexandria.

Legally Blonde transports you to a whopping 20+ places in and around Boston and on Harvard University’s campus, in particular. The set is simple and flexible. Scene changes are briskly paced, helped by a bit of patter by various characters in front of the black curtain while larger scenery is moved around behind it. Some of the sets could have used more detail to suggest the city’s posh neighborhoods or to give a feel of this particular campus, but others fit the show well. The sorority house, both its exterior in the opening scene and its interior later, as well as Elle’s very pink dorm room, are all good examples. This is a daunting show to undertake, scene design-wise; Dan Remmers and his set construction, set painting and decoration team’s efforts show.

While this story and the movie that inspired the musical could be considered “fluff,” there are some key life lessons here to ponder. As this production’s director puts it in the program notes, they include “the significance of living up to one’s potential, the importance of integrity, standing by one’s word, and keeping another person’s trust.” Go see Legally Blonde at LTA to get the full brief on this story of not judging a book by its cover. It’s a definite crowd pleaser!

Legally Blonde plays through August 12, 2017, at The Little Theatre of Alexandria – 600 Wolfe Street, in Alexandria, VA. For tickets, call 703-683-0496, or purchase them online.

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