The performance of the student version of Legally Blonde Jr.at Adventure Theatre MTC was a rollicking ride through the highlights of the extended version. The story is one of female empowerment; a ditzy blonde gaining admission to Harvard Law School to follow her former boyfriend only to find during her time and self-empowerment experiences at Law School, she had lost all interest in him.
Belle Zindash was an appropriate blonde bombshell as Elle, the main character around which the musical s built. Her appearance was the embodiment of ditzy perfection.
The high school-aged cast was filled with a multitude of fantastic characters. as the beauty shop owner Paulette, was the most memorable. She packed a wallop from the tips of her glitzy silver shoes to her outdated glasses and “do.” Her first lament about Ireland, delivered in a Bostonian accent, echoed the sentiment of Elle’s lament for a perfect man. The difference is that Paulette delivered her story in a bawdy manner while Elle’s rendition reeked of self-pity. Gaylin again dominated in the song “Bend and Snap” where she and Elle demonstrated the proper way to pick up a pencil to gain a man’s attention.
Emma Sophie Moore, as Vivienne, initially a snobby first year student, was played with conviction as she changed from one who believed that the tightest bond was between boyfriend and girlfriend to a self-empowered woman who felt that women should stick together. The transformation was slow and the endpoints were clear.
Sammy Strent played several small roles and was most impressive as the Harvard Admissions Officer who seriously questioned the appropriateness of Elle as a Harvard Law student. Such a big voice and attitude from one of the more diminutive players!
Another male standout was as the lawyer, Emmett, who encourages Elle through thick and thin and, over the course of time, becomes the object of her affections. From their performances here, it is no wonder why both Henry Niepoetter and Nadia Gaylin (Paulette) are two of the eight students at the Adventure Theatre Musical Theatre Center Academy nominated for this year’s Helen Hayes Award.
Amongst the gaggle of girls who served as an ensemble, Tuyet Gunter, as Pilar, dominated the group with her all around excellence in the three components of musical theater performance: singing, acting, and dancing. While some struggled with various aspects of their performance, Gunter looked like the consummate pro.
Choreographer Nicole Battle’s choreography was energetic and exciting.
Costume Designer Rachael Knoblauch cleverly kept the ensemble’s attire to a standard sorority t-shirt and jeans. This reduced some of the visual clutter when the entire ensemble was on stage. The costume that struck me as her best was the dress worn by Paulette, the hair salon owner. At the same time ridiculous and flattering, it made her personality pop.
The properties designer created a fantastic set with the appropriate college “rah! rah!” accoutrements. It was easily altered by the movement of a set of stairs/bookcases and the easy movement of additional props, such as chairs and tables, on and off the stage.
Director Andy Wassenich did a great job with such a large cast. Fortunately, the students were prepped in their classes and most had enough stage experience to take direction well.
The audience last night consisted primarily of elementary school girls and the actors’ parents. It was so nice to see so many mothers and daughters enjoying the bubbly musical. Although it is appropriate for all audiences, it probably would be best enjoyed by girls from six through ten.
Running Time: 65 minutes, with no intermission.
Legally Blonde, Jr. plays through tomorrow, January 7, 2016 at Adventure Theatre Musical Theatre Academy performing at Adventure Theatre MTC at Glen Echo Park – 7300 MacArthur Boulevard, in Glen Echo, MD.
Tickets for tomorrow’s 2 & 7 PM performances can be purchased at the door, or by calling the box office at (301) 634-2270.