‘Legally Blonde’ at Toby’s Dinner Theatre of Columbia by Amanda Gunther


Oh My God! Omigod, you guys! Looks like Toby’s Dinner Theatre of Columbia wins the prize of super fantastic amazing entertainment for the summer of 2012 as they present the area premier of Legally Blonde The Musical. With Director Mark Minnick and Musical Director Ross Scott Rawlings at the helm, this Broadway sensation based on the romantic comedy movie from 2001 is a great wave of fun that will really get you feeling the spirit of the Delta Nu sisters and all they have to offer.

"What Your Want-Part 2" Elle Woods (Jessica Ball) and Company. Photo by Kirsten Christiansen.

Meet Elle Woods, queen of fashion, beauty, and all things popular in Malibu. And her super hot boyfriend Warner – who is proposing to her, or so she thinks. When the hot boyfriend breaks up with her for a more serious goal as he heads off to Harvard law it is up to Elle and the Delta Nu girls to make love thrive and survive as she chases him to the prestigious ivy league and slides herself into the program with an LSAT of 175. Fantastical amazement ensues. With a cast of incredibly talented and motivated performers this is the breakout sensation of the summer.

The thing that makes this show shine the brightest above all the other great shows that there are to see is that every member of the cast is motivated, pumped and full of a bright shining spirit. They carry that crazy level of heightened fun-loving energy from the opening number right through to their final bows. There is never a dull moment, even during the slower and sadder bits, and no one ever loses sight of that enthusiastic drive that is pushing them from start to finish. This cast is nothing short of fabulous and their hyper energy and excitement is contagious; they have the whole audience cheering along and wishing they too were legally blonde by the end of the show.

For Elle Woods it’s all about the look, and for this production it’s all about the dancing. Choreographing the show, in addition to providing inspiring direction, Mark Minnick pumps each dance number full of jaw-dropping, eye-popping moves that will get you dancing along in your seat.

At The Courtroom: Elle Woods (Jessica Ball) and The Cast of 'Legally Blonde.' Photo by Kirstine Christiansen.

Minnick floods the stage with a wild and crazy marching band during “What You Want- Part 2” and the dancers bring marching to a whole new level. This song is perhaps the most pumped up number of the show and it lets the ensemble show off their wild side with crazy moves, creating a fun-filled atmosphere for all. We see more of Minnick’s great choreography during the intense prison scenes of “Whipped Into Shape” where not only do you experience dancing but jump-roping and gymnastics are brought in to spice things up.

The spectacular dancing compliments the high-strung energy of the girls of Delta Nu. These gaga sorority girls have their roles cemented with pink perfection. The giggle and twitter and panic like the perfect valley go-go bimbos they’re trying to emulate. Led by the Daughters of Delta Nu trio Serena (Mary Kate Brouillet), Margot (Julia Lancione), and Pilar (Mary Searcy) this gaggle of girls become insta-cheerleaders every moment they’re on the stage. They really get to strut their stuff in numbers like “Omigod You Guys,” “Bend and Snap” and in their rocking rendition of “Daughters of Delta Nu.” Lancione and Brouillet in particular have the spirited energy of the team cheer captain whose football team is about to win nationals and it’s a brilliant charge among them that leads the rest of the sorority girls to those epic peaks of awesomeness.

Of course the infectious energy radiates like a bright pink stiletto on the catwalk from president of the chapter and star of the show, Elle Woods (Jessica Lauren Ball). At first all you can see is the hair and the fashion, but Ball really grabs her confidence and pushes it to the audience in “What You Want” belting out that number to let people know she’s serious and she can do anything. She speaks the valley girl lingo of her sorority sisters but can switch easily into the more articulate language of law when needed. Ball is every bit the stellar sensation you expect from Elle Woods and delivers poignant sorrow when she’s sad and perfect smiles for every moment of joy continuously throughout the show.

Ball’s mesmerizing voice really shines in numbers like “So Much Better” and she imports a world of emotions that no one thought possible from the vapid blonde character into her solo in “Legally Blonde.” Her interactions with each character are personalized, but none are quite as fun as her bitter back and forth dialogue with rival lawyer Vivienne (Beth Rayca). Rayca provides the show with the calloused bitch that really irks Elle into moving forward, but has a completely redeeming moment in her featured solo during “Legally Blonde Remix.” Rayca and Ball play well off one another and even turn their bitter energies into productive ones for the graduation speech finale.

Elle’s whole problem is the men in her life. From doubting daddy (David James) who proves in his three lines in “What You Want” that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree, to her ex-boyfriend Warner (Austin VanDyke Colby) to all the new men at Harvard, she’s got her work cut out for her. Colby as the smooth and slick heartthrob Warner makes us love and hate him all in one number, “Serious.” He goes from king of the court to jerk of the century in no time flat. His smooth voice is slick as silk and his cool collected attitude makes his narcissistic hopes and dreams of the future seem reasonable, creating a great conflict for the audience; take his side or take Elle’s.

The new men at Harvard, the lawyers, are exactly the opposite of everything that is Delta Nu. They’re frigid and bitchy and mean. Callahan (Lawrence B. Munsey) is the ruthless man with the big law firm to prove it. Munsey becomes the shark he sings about in “Blood In The Water” as he sinks his teeth into his students and thrashes Elle into her place. He exposes this dark and vicious blood-thirsty lawyer beneath a suave and composed exterior. A stunningly complex role that is executed to perfection with sharp one-liners in his song “Whipped Into Shape,” a huge crowd pleaser.

And then there’s Emmett (Jeffrey Shankle). This is the character that creates the balance between the flashy Delta Nu group and the frigid cold lawyers. He’s a lawyer with a heart. Shankle gives the performance of a lifetime in this role; a sincere and honest approach unlike any other. He creates this slightly off character that is loveable and open from the moment you meet him. When he sings he sings with gusto and passion, especially in “Chip On My Shoulder” where you really get an in-depth look at his life through the simple words of this song. Shankle rivals Ball in his performance energy, and his character helps keep Elle on the right path. He is the perfect selection for this role.

The scene stealers for this show come from two very different women. We meet Paulette (Priscilla Cuellar) who comes into her own in the big number “Bend and Snap.” And then there is Brooke Wyndham (Heather Beck) who gives the audience buns of steel just by watching her workout number “Whipped Into Shape.” Both women have powerful voices and incredible dance moves. Cuellar explodes her newfound funky self to the max during her big number, getting really funky to build up the courage to finally talk to Kyle (Adam Grabau). And Beck masters the jump rope during her big prison scene, running through crazy energetic exercises while belting at the top of lungs, and she never runs out of breath or breaks a sweat. Beck also holds a ridiculous reverse push-up pose for over a minute during a ‘video pause’ which is perhaps the most hilarious moment in the show.

And keep your eye out for Grabau during his delivery boy scenes. His short shorts has the whole audience howling and whistling. The same can be said for Nikos (David Gregory) when he woos and wows the audience with his hysterical antics during the courtroom song “There! Right There!” These two actors, with so few lines you can’t count them, make sensational comic relief in this show.

So I’m incredibly serious, when I say that I am positive that you must— like omigod you guys— go see Legally Blonde.

Prison: Brooke Wyndham (Heather Beck) and The Inmates. Photo by Kirstine Christiansen.

Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, with one intermission.

Legally Blonde The Musical plays through September 2, 2012 at Toby’s Dinner Theatre of Columbia – 5900 Symphony Woods Road, in Columbia, MD. To make reservations and purchase tickets – call the box office at (410) 730-8311, or purchase them online.

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