Making great theatre is “all in the timing.” How could Act Two @ Levine have known their production of Legally Blonde The Musical would fall during a week of tense national discussion over women’s rights, fueled by Rush Limbaugh’s controversial comments and delicate political posturing by primary election candidates? As a result, for perhaps the first time in the history of this fluffy pink musical confection, Act Two’s superb production of Legally Blonde put a fine point on its message of the importance of “Girl Power” with knockout performances by spirited young women who represent the next generation of America.
Chalk “clairvoyance” up as another one of genius Act Two Director Kevin Kuchar’s many artistic gifts. He and his team of directors and designers (kudos to vocal coach Jennifer Suess, Music Director/Conductor/Keyboardist Billie Whittaker and her full pit orchestra) have positioned Act Two as a premiere hub for training young actors in the art of Musical Theatre. His students consistently demonstrate Broadway-bound skill, and Act Two makes them look incredible with production values on par with many professional theatres.
Based on the 2001 film starring Reese Witherspoon, Legally Blonde The Musical tells the story of Elle Woods (played by Maya Bowman and Kelley Semple in alternating casts), a sorority girl who follows her hunky ex-boyfriend Warner (Sean Watkinson) to Harvard Law School in an attempt to win him back. A tough choice evolves for Elle: win back the boy, or embrace her destiny of helping people as a high-powered attorney?
Act Two employs the technique of rotating actors through multiple roles in different performances, which is a skill they need to develop to work in Broadway and National Touring Company productions. I enjoyed the Saturday afternoon cast performance so much that I brought my family back with me to see the Sunday afternoon cast performance.
Maya Bowman lead the “Friday Night and Saturday Matinee” cast as Elle with professional-caliber musical phrasing, and a thoughtfully restrained characterization that supports a realistic transition from sorority party girl to serious law student. Casey Klein was endearing as Elle’s unlikely love interest Emmett, and his soaring tenor duets with Bowman were highlights of the production. Sean Watkinson made the ideal Warren with super-suave physicality and smooth pop-style vocals. Sophie Spencer-Zavos charmed the audience as hair-stylist Paulette, the role originated on Broadway by Orfeh. Alexander Greenberg brought an edge of ruthlessness to his deceptively-smarmy Professor Callahan. Kayla Dixon stole the second act with her commanding presence and electrifying vocals as fitness guru turned prison inmate Brooke. As Warren’s new girlfriend Vivienne, Julia Bernstein also unveiled powerful vocal skill late in the show. Adin Walker demonstrated versatility through a variety of small comedic roles, most particularly the studly UPS man of Paulette’s dreams and a pool boy of ambiguous persuasion (“gay or European?”). Other stand-out comedic performances included Rachel Hahn as mega-feminist Enid and young Justin Marks as the foul-mouthed Dewey.
The “Saturday Night and Sunday Matinee” cast brought the same level of talent, but characterizations differed in some delightful ways, truly making this production worth a second viewing. As Elle, Kelly Semple set the tone for this cast by embracing the comedy of the role, and won the audience with a star quality performance. Eitan Mazia made a similarly goofy and charismatic Emmett, and together they matched the vocal power of their Friday cast counterparts. Katie Gerard was a standout in this cast as Paulette. Her understated performance hit all of the right comedic notes, and her Earthy vocal quality might someday land her a career as a solo music artist. Bryce Gudelski portrayed a perky Brooke, and Emily Cochrane’s Vivienne successfully captured the dour essence of Selma Blair’s film turn. Adam Winer showcased some serious dance ability, and it was fascinating seeing Rachael Schindler blend seamlessly into the ensemble after her hoot-of-a-scene-stealing performance as party-animal Serena in the Friday cast – this young actress is a pro!
Act Two@Levine’s production of Legally Blonde The Musical is now closed, but if there is an aspiring young performer in your household, check out Act Two for information about upcoming auditions and productions.
Watch a video of a rehearsal of Legally Blonde The Musical at Act Two @ Levine.