Silhouette Stages' 'Legally Blonde' passes the bar

Howard County Times

There are a lot of blonde moments in the Silhouette Stages' production of "Legally Blonde: The Musical" at Slayton House Theatre. That's because its perky protagonist overcomes stereotypical notions about beautiful blondes by adding brains to the equation. Among other things, it gets her into Harvard Law School.

Based on a novel by Amanda Brown and its popular 2001 movie adaptation, this 2007 Broadway musical version takes a light-hearted approach to gender-related assumptions.

This musical's book by Heather Hach pretty much skims the surface of its subject, and the music and lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin likewise hover in what might be termed the agreeable zone, but that's not really a knock against the show. Let some self-serious scholar probe the identity politics of such an issue, because "Legally Blonde: The Musical" manages to make the same essential points in an easygoing way.

The Silhouette Stages' production directed by T.J. Lukacsina has a breezy confidence as it takes protagonist Elle Woods from a holding pattern as a sorority sister who's seemingly content with those social rituals to an ambitious plan to follow ex-boyfriend Warner Huntington III to Harvard Law School in hopes of winning him back. It takes Elle longer than the audience to figure out that Warner is not worth the effort.

Elle's Southern California origins are emphasized in a Valley Girl-accented opening number, "Omigod You Guys," that's set in a UCLA sorority house in which pink seems to be everybody's favorite color. Let's just say it's not the sort of social scene that would bode well if listed on an application to Harvard.

But it's soon apparent to us that Elle is a really smart cookie who is fully capable of outsmarting that brainy Harvard crowd. Once our rooting interest in her is firmly locked in place, every peppy musical number reinforces the point that Elle, whose undergraduate degree is in fashion merchandising, has the makings of a shrewd lawyer within her.

As Elle, Lindsey Landry possesses the looks, the voice and, yes, the right hair color to do the role justice. In "What You Want" and other songs, she demonstrates that she will keep this musical moving ahead through even its more formulaic stretches.

As Warner, Stephen Foreman frankly may not have the model-handsome features that get mentioned in a scripted line, but he does convey the smugness that goes along with a character whose full name is Warner Huntington III.

Elle, who needs to make serious life decisions amidst quite a few silly events, has no shortage of peers around her to exert collegiate peer pressure. This densely populated show has many students, professors, beauty salon patrons, parents and others who make for stage-filling ensemble numbers. Heck, there are even two real dogs that threaten to steal the show from the human actors.

Among the human actors comprising such a large cast, it's to be expected that some of the supporting performances are stronger than others. The energy level is high for all involved, however, and so there is no lack of school spirit.

Several of the actors turn their secondary roles into first-rate performances.

A reliable performer over the years at Silhouette Stages and elsewhere, Matt Wetzel is best-known for physical clowning that combines sleekly choreographed stage movement with crisp timing in his line delivery.

In "Legally Blonde," he plays a Harvard teaching assistant with a working-class background, Emmett Forrest, whose friendship with Elle may lead to something more.

Wetzel is as capable with the musical material as one would expect, but what really impresses here is that he brings much-appreciated dramatic substance to the show. Indeed, Wetzel brings such conviction to his lines that it makes you want to call out: Hey, Elle, the guy for you is the platonic pal standing right next to you!

Also giving a delightful performance is Michele D. Vicino-Coleman as Paulette, a worldly-wise beauty salon owner whose teasing skills extend from the customers' hair to their personalities. Her big solo number, "Ireland," admittedly seems nearly extraneous to the main story, but this performer puts it across with such brassy assurance that it's the vocal highlight of the evening.

Another striking performance is by Summer Hill as Brooke Wyndham, a fitness empire tycoon who now faces murder charges in a rather far-fetched plot twist. Anyway, she looks spiffy in her prison-orange outfit as she leads her fellow inmates in a workout routine. The song "Whipped Into Shape" lives up to its title.

Silhouette Stages' production of "Legally Blonde: The Musical" runs through May 28 at Slayton House Theatre, 10400 Cross Fox Lane in Wilde Lake Village Center in Columbia. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets are $20; $17 for military, seniors and students; $15 for children 10 and under. Go to www.silhouettestages.com

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