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On Theater: A 'Blonde' moment worth having

TheaterMusical TheaterColleges and UniversitiesMusicChristopher McDonald

Of all the stage musicals based on hit movies over the years ("Applause," "Promises, Promises," etc.), few have hit the ground running with the wit, verve and sheer entertainment value of "Legally Blonde," now in its second and final weekend at Golden West College.

This satirical creation of Heather Hach (book) and Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin (music and lyrics) is a delicious sendup of modern society as it details a young woman's trek through Harvard Law School in pursuit of both a law degree and her recently detached boyfriend.

She's blonde all right, but she's no dummy. She earned a 4.0 GPA at UCLA — even though she did major in fashion. And you'd be surprised at how well those skills serve her in the halls of advanced academia.

At Golden West, director Martie Ramm — who also choreographs, gloriously — has concocted a terrific production that's guaranteed to set playgoers' toes tapping, and even may ignite their brains a bit. It's as rich in satirical edginess as it is in sheer showmanship.

The cherry atop this scrumptious musical dessert is Nina Ramos, stepping into the shoes worn most notably by Reese Witherspoon in the movie and its sequel. Ramos goes all out in her depiction of Malibu princess Elle Woods with a calculating mind under those golden locks and an impressive vocal skill to match.

Shane Blankenship as her former squeeze — who's now connected with an upscale coed (Jessica Hayes) — hits the right note of vacuous superiority. And Hayes brings her character, as well as her performance temperature, around 180 degrees in a skillful interpretation.

As her study buddy who yearns for her but shyly defers, Joey Nestra also fits the bill splendidly. Steve De Forest (reminiscent of TV actor Christopher McDonald) registers sheer ego and eroticism as her smarmy professor.

A standout in the supporting cast is Michele Zelina as Paulette, a beauty shop stylist who belts out her love for "Ireland" and soon finds an Irish soulmate (Jeffrey Black as a hunky UPS worker). Ironically, Black also plays Paulette's trailer-trashy ex-boyfriend.

Laura Rensing is spotlighted to great effect as a exercise instructor accused of murdering her husband. And Kathryn O'Shea makes a lasting impression as the leader of the ensemble in the first act before kicking up her heels with a flourish in the second.

And then there's "Bruiser," Elle's tiny Chihuahua, a super-cute pup who could use more stage time at the risk of upsetting "her" fellow actors (the role is played by a canine named Lizzie). Another, much larger dog named Halo shows up as Paulette's pooch.

Ramm's choreography is particularly intricate, and the excellent ensemble pulls the tricky moves off luminously. Wally Huntoon's multiple-piece settings are whisked on and off stage impressively, posing a ton of work for the backstage crew.

Susan Thomas Babb's bright costumes (especially Elle's) are a delight, while musical director-conductor Rick Heckman's score is infectious, but occasionally drowns out the less-prominent voices in the ensemble.

"Legally Blonde" will be a comparative stranger to local audiences, having been done only once before in this area at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Those who enjoyed the movie version(s) should particularly appreciate this splashy, melodic and joyously satirical stage adaptation at Golden West College.

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Orange Coast College will showcase its student directors, actors, designers and playwrights during next weekend's Spring One-Act Play Festival. All short productions will be directed and performed by OCC theater arts students.

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. May 16 through 19 with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m. in the Drama Lab Studio Theatre on campus. Admission is $5 in advance or $7 at the door, and reservations are taken at (714) 432-5880.

TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Daily Pilot.

If You Go

What: "Legally Blonde"

Where: Golden West College Mainstage Theater, Huntington Beach

When: Closing performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday

Cost: Call for ticket information

Information: (714) 895-8150 or http://www.gwctheater.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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