Theater
Review
"Legally Blonde:
The Musical"

Produced by: Palo Alto Players
Book by Heather Hach; music and lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin; based on the novel by Amanda Brown and the MGM motion picture
Directed by: Dan Demers
Featuring: Courtney Hatcher, David Saber, Adam Cotugno, Calia Johnson, Lyn Mehe'ula, Brigitte Losey, Sasha Motalygo, Cheryl Ringman, Christina Murdock, Cameron Weston, Jacquie McCarley, Lauren Rhodes, Catrina Manahan, Rebecca Mayfield, Arielle Rothman, Ernestine Balisi, Mylissa Malley, Jon Nowakawski, James Giusti, Meg Fisher, Cassie Blake, Amanda Ross, Jeff Swan, Aaron Wimmer, Joshua Williams
When: September 8 through September 23, 2012
Where: Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, California Tickets: $20-$29. Visit paplayers.org or call 650-329-0891

Read an interview with director Dan Demers.

Read Joanne Englehardt's excellent review of "Legally Blonde: The Musical" in The Daily News.

Read about Franklin the French bulldog, who is a real scene-stealer.
Legally Blonde
Joyce Goldschmid / Palo Alto Players
Adam Cotugno, left, and Courtney Hatcher in "Legally Blonde: The Musical" at Palo Alto Players. The show runs September 8-23, 2012.

Legally Blonde
Joyce Goldschmid / Palo Alto Players
Christina Murdock, left, and Courtney Hatcher in "Legally Blonde: The Musical" at Palo Alto Players. The show runs September 8-23, 2012.

Legally Blonde
Joyce Goldschmid / Palo Alto Players
Courtney Hatcher, bottom center, as Elle Woods in "Legally Blonde," along with her Delta Nu Sisters Lyn Mehe'ula as Serena, upper left; Brigitte Losey as Margot, center; and Calia Johnson as Pilar, right. The Palo Alto Players production of "Legally Blonde: the Musical" runs September 8-23, 2012, at the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto.

Legally Blonde
Joyce Goldschmid / Palo Alto Players
Courtney Hatcher as Elle Woods in "Legally Blonde," the Palo Alto Players production.

Legally Blonde
Joyce Goldschmid / Palo Alto Players
Adam Cotugno, left, and Courtney Hatcher in "Legally Blonde: The Musical" at Palo Alto Players. The show runs September 8-23, 2012.
Legally fun at Palo Alto Players
'Legally Blonde: The Musical' opens venerable troupe's 82nd season
September 9, 2012

"Legally Blonde: The Musical," as staged by the Palo Alto Players at the Lucie Stern Theatre, is two and a half hours of easy fun.

Director Dan Demers has assembled a huge, hard-working cast that includes 27 human beings and two charming dogs, and they all really bring it for this essentially silly but harmless show. The principals are all excellent, and the ensemble is fabulous.

Courtney Hatcher, who looks really good in pink, is terrific as Elle Woods, the UCLA sorority girl who is dumped by her ambitious boyfriend, who has career plans that don't include having a wife he thinks of as just a party girl. He plans to go to Harvard Law School and then into politics.

Elle works hard at her books, with help from Delta Nu sister Kate (Lauren Rhodes), then charms her way into Harvard - with help from a gaggle of cheerleaders.

David Saber is solid in the almost thankless role of Elle's ex-boyfriend, Warner, who is surprised to see Elle at Harvard - where she looks like a bright flower among gray bricks of Harvard Law students.

Elle suffers some embarrassment and cruel treatment from Warner's new girlfriend, Vivienne (played with beauty and malice by Christina Murdock), but just keeps trying.

The endlessly sincere Elle makes a couple of key new friends: Emmett, an open-minded and gifted law student, and Paulette, an empathetic hairdresser.

Adam Cotugno is handsome and kind as Emmett, and helps Elle learn some things about herself, including that she is lowering herself in her pursuit of Warner. Sasha Motalygo is hilarious as Paulette, who helps Elle keep faith in herself.

Hatcher is impressive as Elle, really selling the character and all her extremes of emotionality. Hatcher's performance is great from the back of the auditorium, and from the front row. Good, strong voice, excellent gift for comedy.

The opening song is "Omigod You Guys," which is both its title and most of its lyrics, as we meet all these Delta Nu sisters who seem completely goofy. If the show has a deep meaning, is that even pretty, goofy coeds who seem to obsess about nothing but clothing fashions and boyfriends, actually can work at something worthwhile and accomplish something positive.

Lyn Mehe'ula as Serena, Calia Johnson as Pilar and Bridgett Losey as Margot are all very impressive as Elle's tightest pals.

Some of the best stuff about this show, under Demers direction, is how the ensemble delivers. The "Greek chorus," the students, anytime a large population is on stage. Everybody is really doing all they can to charm the audience, and they succeed.

Let's have a round of applause, please, for choreographer Gennine Harrington, who makes all the dance pieces a complete blast, and for Mary Cravens' costumes, which tell the story in clothing.

I am disappointed that I couldn't find the names of the two dogs in the program. Elle's Chihuahua was OK, but the pug (I think) that Elle helps save for Paulette almost steals the show. When Paulette and the dog are reunited, and the pug slobberingly licks Motalygo's face, the applause was huge. (According to a letter I received, that dog is a French pug named Franklin.)

The scariest moment of the show happened during the overture, when the nine-piece orchestra, under the direction of Matthew Mattei, briefly lost its way a couple of times. One or two players go off key and off time, and it really hurts. But Mattei quickly got them back in shape, and they were fine, musically, for the rest of the show.

A more frequent problem was that the orchestra was often too loud, or the dialog was too soft. There were several moments on opening night when the lyrics simply couldn't be heard.

Patrick Klein's sets were serviceable, for the most part. The law students sit on giant law books, which was kind of fun. I was unhappy with a scene in Harvard Yard where there was just a huge black background when there should have been trees.

The musical itself - music and lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe and Neil Benjamin, book by Heather Hach, based on the novel by Amanda Brown and the MGM movie - has more fun stuff than dull stuff. Poor Cameron Weston, as Professor Callahan, has to deliver the worst song of the show, "Blood in the Water," which is mostly a snooze-fest.

The show progresses through the same story as the Reese Witherspoon movie. Elle saves the day in court, on behalf of a sorority sister whose spa empire is threatened. It's silly, but it works.

Joshua Williams as the pool boy and Aaron Wimmer as the UPS driver who steals Paulette's heart are both a lot of fun.

Opening night, Saturday, was one of the fullest audiences I've seen at the Lucie Stern in a while, and a propitious opening for the Palo Alto Players' 82nd season.

Email John Orr at johnorr@regardingarts.com



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