‘Legally Blonde The Musical’ at Riverside Center Dinner Theater by Julia L. Exline

FOUR STARS
Riverside Center Dinner Theater presents Legally Blonde The Musical, an infectiously peppy show with Music and Lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin, and Book by Heather Hach. Brian J. Swasey directs this carefree production, with Musical Direction by Jason J. Michael. The lively song-and-dance numbers and bubbly performances bring the fun-loving kid out in everyone, just in time for the summer season!

Elle Woods (Julie Baird). Photo courtesy of Riverside Center Dinner Theater.

Elle Woods (Julie Baird). Photo courtesy of Riverside Center Dinner Theater.

Scenic Designer Jimmy Humphries uses a variety of settings, including a pink sorority house framed by marble columns and a slightly run-down beauty salon, among others. Lighting Designer Nicky Mahon uses spotlights to follow the characters (a classic technique at Riverside) as well as playfully pairing colors with songs, like a red stage for “Blood in the Water” and green for “Ireland.” Gaye Law goes playful with costumes as well, like cheerleading outfits for the spunky “What You Want,” a well-choreographed number by Keith Coughlin. To highlight the main conflict of the plot, feminine, flashy outfits are starkly contrasted with neutral tones and preppy patterns.

The opening song “Omigod, You Guys” is over-the-top and features an overexcited throng of sorority sisters, whose voices I found particularly underwhelming. Luckily, Elle Woods (Julie Baird) arrived onstage – and her booming voice was a welcome presence.

The show takes off when Elle makes it to Harvard Law School, where she has enrolled to try to win back her ambitious ex-boyfriend –  Warner Huntington the Third – played by David Pope. Pope really nails the uppety and egotistical man he has become since dating his new girlfriend Vivienne. Baird has a wonderful vocal range and an overabundant amount of energy. It is here where her perky personality clashes horribly with the serious, conservative crowd, and where she earns a lot of laughs and applause.

Vivienne, Warner’s new girlfriend, is particularly WASPish, and Analisa Wall’s performance of this character is fantastic, and may I say, this girl, like Baird, has the a very strong voice. Elle seeks solace in a friendship with beautician Paulette Buonofuonte (a perky Emily Blair Powers), the one peer who has faith in her -the loyal Emmett  (the handsome James Brock), and her three best friends, who present themselves as hallucinations. It is in these hallucinations that the dance numbers really shine.

Easily the most standout numbers include a song dedicated to the “Bend and Snap” move, and the jump-rope wielding “Whipped Into Shape,” with an excellent Emily Turner Marsland as fitness guru Brooke Wyndham, who is about to go to jail for a murder that she did not commit…unless Elle can help her. Faced with harsh judgments and unflinching doubt, Elle has to prove that she has the power to be seen as more than a “Marilyn.”

Paulette Buonofuonte (Emily Blair Powers) and Elle Woods (Julie Baird). Photo courtesy of Riverside Center Dinner Theater.

Paulette Buonofuonte (Emily Blair Powers) and Elle Woods (Julie Baird). Photo courtesy of Riverside Center Dinner Theater.

Can Elle rise above the ‘Dumb Blonde’ stereotype and not only show her peers what she is capable of, but more importantly, herself? Okay, most of you know the answer to this (it was a popular movie), but with song and dance numbers added in, the fun level is amped up a notch.

Riverside Center Dinner Theater’s Legally Blonde The Musical is a great way to kick off a cheerful summer.

Running Time: Approximately two and a half hours, including one 15-minute intermission.

Legally Blonde

Legally Blonde The Musical plays through June 16, 2013 at Riverside Center Dinner Theatre—95 Riverside Parkway, in Fredericksburg, VA. To purchase tickets, call (540) 370-4300.

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