THEATER REVIEW (WSAU) Legally Blonde-The Musical is difficult – in a different way.
I’ve shared my admiration of the Everest Academy for the Performing Arts because of their willingness to mount difficult productions that other community theater groups shy away from. Legally Blonde isn’t tough because we’re landing helicopters on stage (Miss Saigon, 2010) or because one person has to represent the Argentina’s entire resistance movement (Evita, 2011). Legally Blonde is difficult because of its newness. It’s only recently been made available for local productions. There's a lack of ‘this is how we do this play’ knowledge. If you do Oklahoma! or The Sound of Music you’ll find cast members who’ve been in some earlier production. The staging is more defined. You already know how other school or community groups have overcome production challenges. Heck, there are web sites devoted to how to ‘do’ this-and-that play. A director who tries Legally Blonde starts with a blank slate.
Newness aside, Legally Blonde probably isn’t on anyone’s list of favorite plays. If we were to take a survey of what-you’d-most-like-to-see, this would be far down. “You mean, the movie?” most would ask. “Yes, but now it’s a play – with lots of songs added in.”
The Everest Academy is crossing the threshold into one of those theater groups where everything they do is likely to be done well. I'm already at the point where I trust them blindly. If they're doing it, it's up to their standards. So what if this year’s show isn’t Sondheimesque. It’s campy. Legally Blonde pumps out more cheese than the Kraft plant on the other side of town. It also happens to be an irresistibly fun show.
Jessica Hargrave is the evening’s star, and she deserves her name in lights. This is a singing roll, and she has a pure, strong voice. And unlike many younger females in the theater who've developed their singing beyond all else, her acting is also well-polished. She has a good sense of timing on stage, handles her dancing effortlessly, and is kept busy through a dizzying series of costume changes that are pulled off with a big smile that never lets on how difficult it is. She soars while some others in the cast merely fly. Her two male suitors, who are both capable, have to work hard to keep up with her.
A special salute to Mary Shafarik, who was outstanding in Wausau Community Theater’s Don Quixote last fall, and is just as good in the comedic role of as Paulette the hair stylist. It’s the best supporting-role performance I’ve seen this year.
There’s nothing traditional about Legally Blonde-The Musical. It’s not going to be a classic. This is more of a guilty pleasure – like choosing Hostess Twinkies instead of homemade pie. You may feel like you’ve just arrived at a party and someone pulls you out on the dance floor before you're ready. The next few moments – the music, a smile, something funny, or a moment of being carefree – determine if you stay there and enjoy yourself. Legally Blonde grabbed me early, pulled me where it wanted to take me, and kept me in that happy-sort-of-silly-place the whole night. It will for you, too.
Performances of Legally Blonde-The Musical are scheduled Friday, Saturday and Sunday at D.C. Everest High School. All performances are at 7:30pm.
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From the archives, here are reviews from the 2010 and 2011 Everest Academy musicals: