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BWW Review: OMG You Guys, LEGALLY BLONDE Is Playing at Ephrata Pertorming Arts Center!

OMG, LEGALLY BLONDE is, like, totally playing at Ephrata Performing Arts Center right now. Based on the movie, with a book by Heather Hach and music and lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe and Neil Benjamin, it's as insubstantial as the pocket pup its star, Delta Nu sorority girl Elle, carries with her everywhere. It's as sticky-sweet as the Barbie-pink wardrobe Elle affects. Amazingly, it's never quite cloying.

That's a miracle, because it's an appallingly silly story, with an idiotically sexist romantic line to it. This writer went to a college that had no sororities because, as a women's college, it was one giant sorority. Female college students haven't been that atrocious in groups in decades. This writer also went to law school, and can attest never having met any other women who went to law school, or any other graduate program, in search of an MRS. degree. And that silliness is this show's plot in a nutshell. If Elle is as scattered as the book makes her, there's no way she had a 4.0 average at USC - an excellent school - even if it was in fashion marketing. (Incidentally, though the show's law students and professors make fun of Elle's degree in fashion marketing, it's truly not an unlikely undergraduate degree for a law student to have. It makes excellent business sense. There's a lot of law involved in the rag trade.)

If the book is insubstantial, so, too, are the music and lyrics - this isn't a Broadway show whose score is played perpetually at piano bars, on Sirius/XM's Broadway channels, or that's on anyone's greatest show tunes list. It's cute and inoffensive, though no more memorable than the rest of the show. There's no major baritone power ballad, no Rodgers and Hammerstein duet, no show-stopping solo. Although there is a deliciously silly number called "Gay or European?" It's as silly as it sounds, though a major plot point of Elle's big case hangs on its answer. And the cheery refrain of "oh my God, you guys!" hangs over everything.

What's in the show itself? Not much. As Gertrude Stein said of Berkeley, there's no there, there.

In short, if you can overlook horrendous quantities of pink, a Harvard Law School painted by people who failed to watch "The Paper Chase," and the idea that law school has anything to do with romance (and oh, how very, very wrong that idea is), and the fact that it's just plain weak in story and song, it's pretty good summer fluff. As Ben Brantley noted of the Broadway production, what makes this show work is its cast - a good one makes it, a bad one is the straw that breaks this show's back. Fortunately, director/choreographer Cody Smith picked an excellent one.

Amy Ward as Elle Woods, the world's smartest dumb blonde, brings energy and a great voice, and a faint whiff of real brains, that make Elle somehow plausible under the Barbie disguises and sorority cheers. It's always a joy to see Sean Deffley on stage at EPAC, and as Emmett, the teaching assistant who is at first the only one at Harvard to see Elle's brains or her actual charm, he's in fine form as ever. Jordan Strybos is fine at being awful as Warner, the guy who dumped Elle to go to Harvard, convinced that she won't meet his Kennedy-like family plan for his great political career because she's insufficiently serious. Niki Boyer-Swatski, however, is a show-stealer as Elle's hairdresser, confidante, and sister dog-lover, Paulette. She and Deffley are the great fun of the show, and her romance with the UPS delivery man.

Not so much fun is the show's evil villain, Professor Callahan, played by veteran performer Jim Rule - he's the mean law professor that everyone fears, the one the student body loves to hate, except that winning his internships means a guaranteed career in a high-priced firm. Rule's got evil law professor down cold, and may just cause flashbacks for lawyers in the audience - they've had that professor, no matter where they went, and Rule knows how to bring back that memory. Watching Elle defeat him is priceless, and watching her discovering solidarity with Warner's new fiancée, Vivienne (played with just the right chill by Lauren Adkins) in taking down Callahan is one of the most satisfactory moments of the show. Of the secondary characters, Adkins' Vivienne and Steph Hallett's Enid, another law student, are possibly the most fun, though the show's writers resort to some annoying stereotyping for Enid's character. Hallett, like Ward, has some fine comic timing that's a joy to watch.

Need to relax over your summer vacation? This production of LEGALLY BLONDE may do the trick for you. It's big, it's brassy, and it's every bit as pink as SHREK is green. It's one of those almost non-existent modern shows, a musical comedy that's merely fun, and not an artistic statement, the sort that used to abound in the 1950s and 1960s. It's the sort of show that Judy Holliday could have done. If you want a show that's pink cotton candy for the summertime soul, the musical equivalent of your favorite beach book, LEGALLY BLONDE is it.

At EPAC through August 9. Visit www.ephrataperformingartscenter.com or call 717-733-7966 for information and tickets.


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