TR Robertson — Carlsbad, CA … Many critics have written that “Legally Blonde – the Musical” is a statement for women’s rights and “girl power” in dealing with the structured, “good old boys”, world of the legal system. It may be, but “Oh My God”, I think those attending the first play/musical of the Eighteenth Season, for Carlsbad’s New Village Arts, will also find a most entertaining, funny, well-acted, great choreography and cleverly designed musical that skirts the deeper issues for a musical that will leave the audience smiling and laughing as they exit the theatre.
Kristianne Kurner, founder and Executive Artistic Director of NVA returns to directing, with this musical, and with the assistance of Kyle Hawk, choreographing his first production at NVA. Both Kurner and Hawk pull off a great show with a smaller cast of 15, as most productions of “Legally Blonde – the Musical” are done with much larger casts on much larger stages. Needless to say, they get the most out of their cast with many performers playing multiple roles on the smaller NVA stage. Using a mostly stationary set, designed by Scenic Designer Christopher Scott Murillo, along with quickly placed props, Properties Designer Patricia Collins, has the cast pop in and out of double doors, and shuttered windows, never missing a cue. Returning to NVA and conducting the small three piece band was Tony Houck, whose group made the music sound as if it was coming for a much larger orchestra. Rounding out the Creative Team was Lighting Designer Alex Crocker-Lakness, Sound Designer TJ Fucella, Stage Manager Kevin Kornburger, Asst. Stage Manager Alex Luong. Kudos to Costume Designer Samantha Vesco for creating a number of different looks for the cast as they played their different parts.
Photos by Daren Scott
“Legally Blonde – The Musical” premiered in 2007 at the Golden Gate Theatre in San Francisco and opened on Broadway at the Palace Theatre the same year. The musical features music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Neil Benjamin, based on a novel by Amanda Brown and the 2001 MGM film, “Legally Blonde” starring Reese Witherspoon. The musical would be featured in an MTV broadcast, receive 7 Tony nominations and 10 Drama Desk nominations.
The musical version is the story of a UCLA graduate, Elle Woods, who follows her ex-boyfriend, Warner, to Harvard Law School. While there, she is admitted to the Law School using a group of cheerleader friends and a convincing argument that she is motivated by love. She struggles with her classes and some of the law students. Elle meets a graduate assistant and a hair dresser who helps her negotiate the Law School and her personal issues. Her hard-nosed professor admits her to a team of classmates, assigned the job of assisting him defending a work-out instructor accused of murdering her husband. With a bit of luck, clever tactics and some quick thinking, Elle catches two of the witnesses in lies and along the way finds a new love.
This is a high energy, fast paced musical requiring a cast that can handle the tempo and the NVA cast chosen is certainly up to the task. Playing Elle Woods is Danielle Levas, a NVA vet who runs the Rising Stars Theater Arts for young performers. Her energy is infectious. Playing Warren is Cody Ingram, making his debut at NVA. Elle’s Delta Nus cheerleader friends and the “Greek Chorus” that pops up as needed, are played by Gina Maria Cioffi as Serena, Allyce Calloway as Margot and Molly O’Meara as Pilar. They might have the hardest part on stage as they have to appear and disappear throughout the musical and they must be exhausted by the end of the musical with their numerous dance routines. An audience favorite is Marlene Montes, playing Paulette, the hairdresser. She has a great personality for her character and great humor for the role. Steven Freitas, in his second NVA production, plays a perfectly “nasty” law professor. Playing Brooke, the accused fitness instructor, is Catie Marron and she, along with a talented group of cast members, put on an extremely energetic jump rope routine at the start of Act II to “Whipped Into Shape”. Brooke has performed at NVA previously and is a Jazzercise instructor in San Diego. Elle’s other love interest, Emmett, is played by Sittichai Chaiyahat, who is also making his NVA debut.
The rest of the talented cast for “Legally Blonde – the Musical” is made up of Cassie Bleher, Joel Miller, Thomas Reasoner, Trevor Rex, Erin Vanderhyde, and Roma Watkins. In one funny scene, Joel Miller and Marlene Montes lead many of the cast in a fun “Riverdance” routine, “Ireland”. Another memorable and very funny number from the musical occurs during the court room scene when a gay witness portrays a straight man on the stand only to be “outed” in “Gay or European?”.
Additional standout members of the cast included Luna Pierce and Mr. Monty, a.k.a. Bruiser and Rufus. Bruiser is Elle’s Chihuahua pup, 7 year old Luna Pierce and Rufus is Paulette’s pup. Mr. Monty was quiet the stage ham. Another hit for the musical comedy was NVA’s signature drink for the show, a “Bend & Snap” vodka lemon-lime soda raspberry lemonade drink, named after Elle’s signature move she tells Paulette about to get someone to immediately notice you.
NVA’s “Legally Blonde – the Musical” will dazzle those who take it in and will be an incredibly enjoyable way to spend an evening at the theatre. The musical comedy will run until September 8th at the NVA Theatre, located at 2787 State Street. Ticket prices range from $44-$47 with discounts available for seniors, students and active military. Tickets and information available at www.newvillagearts.org or call 760-433-3245. The new play for NVA will be the San Diego premiere of “Guadalupe in the Guest Room”, beginning September 28th.