BWW Review: Showtunes Gives Us the LEGALLY BLONDE We Didn't Know We Needed
Showtunes is doing "Legally Blonde"? Don't they do obscure musicals that never get done? Yes, that's them, Dear Readers. Putting up for a few weekends, concert stagings with books in hand shows that usually don't see the spotlight. And now here they come with "Legally Blonde" that mega-hit. So why? Because they focus on rare voices and that could mean titles of shows or that could mean casting someone in a role for which they may never be considered. Enter an off-hand remark made at one of the 5thAvenue Theatre spotlight nights when Alexandria Henderson said she didn't have a dream role, just to be able to be cast without limitation and another actor on-stage shouted that she should be Elle in "Legally Blonde" and the crowd went wild. So, an African American Elle with the titular blonde locks. Why not? And that Dear Readers, is the last time we need focus on the fact that Ms. Henderson isn't your traditional Elle. For the rest of this article we'll only focus on the fact that she killed it!
If you're not familiar with the show or the movie or its sequel, where have you been? Quick rundown, soon to be UCLA graduate and all-around Malibu girl Elle Woods (Henderson) is dumped by her boyfriend Warner (Nate McViker) because he thinks he needs someone more serious as he goes off to Harvard Law. So, Elle decides to get into Harvard Law too ("Like it's hard?") to show Warner just how serious she can be. But along the way she finds she's up to any challenge, even Harvard, without changing who she is.
This show is difficult enough with a normal rehearsal schedule so with the 40 hours of rehearsal Showtunes gets, even with books in hand, what they've accomplished is a miracle. Director Faith Bennett Russell has taken the minimal staging of a concert and kept it as minimal as "Legally Blonde" can be. Even before I went I was asking, "How on earth are they going to handle all the dance breaks?" Well with some minimal choreography for the rest of the cast and some not so minimal for Henderson and a band of four awesome dancers who kept appearing to fill out the scene, Russell and choreographer Jimmy Shields have made this concert staging feel more like a Broadway spectacle. Of course, with the orchestra led by music director Nathan Young doing the entire Broadway score it's no wonder we're feeling the entire Blonde experience.
Henderson, as I said, kills it. She certainly got the voice for the role and the attitude and how about managing that choreography, in heels no less. She makes Elle come alive and never once made us feel that this was just a concert. In fact, without all the distractions of set and fluff we could focus on the outstanding vocals when it's just her, front and center, hitting those insane notes in "So Much Better". Justin Huertas is on hand as the slightly awkward Emmett who helps lead Elle through the shark infested waters of Harvard and couldn't be more adorable with great chemistry with Henderson. Jason Kappus has lent his incredible pipes to the slimy Professor Callahan and looks to be having a blast as he sniffs out the "Blood in the Water". Be Russell was superb as Elle's confidant and nail guru Paulette and brought her own sass and heart to the role. The entire ensemble is from the theatre Gods but then Showtunes always brings in the best of the best.
I may have had my questions as to why Showtunes was doing this show when I first heard of it, but after seeing it I simply don't care. All I know is they gave me one of the best "Legally Blonde"s I've seen. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give Showtunes' production of "Legally Blonde" an Omigod YAY+. With their SHORT run I urge you to catch this one ASAP.
"Legally Blonde" from Showtunes performs at the Cornish Playhouse through September 30th. For tickets or information visit them online at www.ShowtunesTheatre.org.