BWW Reviews: City Lights Theatre's LEGALLY BLONDE is Pink and Bubbly
In 2007, LEGALLY BLONDE painted Broadway's Palace Theatre pink with its bubbly book by Heather Hach and infectious pop music and lyrics by Nell Benjamin and Laurence O'Keefe. Stumbling in the box office, the show became immensely popular after it was aired in its entirety on MTV in October 2007. The musical closed on Broadway on October 19, 2008 and enjoyed success on two separate national tours. Set to open tonight, City Lights Theatre, a community theatre in Sugar Land, is producing the sugary musical confection. Last night, they invited me out to their final dress rehearsal to preview their spin on the bouncy piece.
Walking into the venue, the first thing I noticed was the bright pink and lime green set pieces and the pink and white houndstooth floor. Director and production Designer, Nick Thomas wants his audience to experience LEGALLY BLONDE through the eyes of Elle Woods. In doing this, he has set the musical in a bubblegum world with bright colors and flashy accents. As we traverse Elle's arc, everything is dipped in pink and glitter except the halls of Harvard, where browns and blacks ever so slightly permeate the atmosphere. I generally like this approach to the musical, but the brightness is at times a little overbearing. I just feel that the distinction for the world of Harvard should be a bit more invasively stuffy, suppressing Elle's world. This would be most effective in Act I, before Elle is hired as an intern in Callahan's elite group.
Attending the final dress rehearsal, my biggest fear for the show is its lacking musical direction. Many of the voices already are showing signs of fatigue and strain, and LEGALLY BLONDE's score is not known for being vocally complicated. Many of the melodies and harmonies are simplistic to allow for quick, energetic choreography. Also, the cast was having difficulty blending with one another and matching pitches in the ensemble moments. My favorite vocal performance in the show was Deborah O'Donnell's Paulette. She brought funky life and energy into songs like "Ireland," "Bend and Snap," and "Find My Way."
Conversely, the cast is doing a good job with the vibrant characters. They infuse these effervescent characters with charisma and charm, making them pop to life on the stage. For this aspect alone, I am sure that audiences who venture out to performances of LEGALLY BLONDE at City Lights Theatre are bound to have fun with the show. It is obvious this cast is truly enjoying bringing their characters to life, especially when they get the opportunity to break the fourth wall and interact with the crowd some. Standout performances from last night's preview were Janessa Zech's sprightly Elle Woods, Deborah O'Donnell's wacky Paulette, Kyle Crawford's ambitious Warner Huntington III, Nathania Reid's domineering and astute Vivienne Kensignton, Brennan Blakenship's rambunctious Enid Hoopes, Jess Levasseur's sporty Serena, Cindy Lou Parker's squeaky Margot, and Alejandro Martinez's conceited Padamadan and colorful Carlos.
The production at City Lights Theatre offers some athletic and interesting choreography, but having only three days to fit it on the stage really showed in last night's preview. Numbers like "What You Want" were extremely messy, busy, and plagued by timing that was off. Other numbers, like "Bend and Snap," worked well. In the middle ground were numbers like "Whipped Into Shape," where the spacing and picture was nice, but the jump ropes didn't want to co-operate with the cast.
At the bottom line, when seeing a production of LEGALLY BLONDE, I think it is really hard not to let loose, laugh, and have a good time. The last time I saw the musical was on Broadway. Is City Lights Theatre producing the musical at a Broadway level. No, but I didn't expect them to either. What they are doing is telling the story with a fresh cast, scenic design, costume design, and choreography. Many elements were still rough around The Edges at last night's preview, but the performances should be an enjoyable night out for those who choose to attend them.
LEGALLY BLONDE, produced by City Lights Theatre, plays at City Lights Theatre, 3410 A Highway 6 Boulevard, Sugar Land, 77478 tonight through November 3, 2013. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 5:00 p.m. For tickets and more information, please visit http://www.cltheatre.com or call (281) 241-1055.