Children's Theatre cast shows off its 'Blonde' ambition

"Legally Blonde: The Musical" proves to be an ideal production for Children's Theatre of Annapolis, following the troupe's promise to provide professional on-stage opportunities for young performers.

In its second main stage play of the 2012-2013 season, the Children's Theatre's talented teen cast stretches to new horizons in this lively show.

Based on the 2001 movie starring Reese Witherspoon and Luke Wilson, the 2007 musical by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin has audiences rooting for Elle Woods, a young woman who knows what she wants and ultimately uses her determination, intelligence and savvy to get it.

The show opens as UCLA Delta Nu sorority president Elle — portrayed by Broadneck High School sophomore Colleen Coleman — has a dinner date with boyfriend Warner Huntington III, played by Annapolis Area Christian School junior Zeke Quellette

Elle expects Warner to propose marriage, but instead he tells her she has no place in his future and he's going to Harvard Law School. Taken aback, Elle decides to study nonstop so she'll earn a high enough LSAT score to gain admission to Harvard, where she can join Warner.

The show follows Elle's journey to Harvard, her challenge by Warner's new upper-crust girlfriend, Vivienne, her acceptance by teaching assistant Emmett Forrest and her ultimate role in the murder trial of workout queen Brooke Wyndham, accused of killing her billionaire husband.

Children's Theatre again taps the Broadway experience of director/choreographer Jason Kimmell, who returns for his sixth year to lend his skills to this teen cast. Returning for his third CTA show is music director Joshua Konick, who in addition to directing the company's productions of "Grease" and "A Night on Broadway," also earned kudos for Annapolis Summer Garden's "Avenue Q" last season.

Konick conducts a skilled pit of musicians including Emily Sergo, Laura Brady and Elaine Beckman on keyboards, Ira Ostrowski on bass, Nick Delaney on guitar, Erin Ostrowski on reed, Alexander Edwards on trumpet and Zachary Konick on drums.

Coleman, at 15, is a veteran of seven Children's Theatre shows and 12 years of dance study. She proves she can handle the leading role of Elle from her first number, "Omigood," sung with her sorority ensemble, through her cheerleading tune, "What You Want," and the optimistic "Chip on My Shoulder."

Mariel White, 16, is a scene-stealer as beautician Paulette, who becomes Elle's fast friend. The Broadneck High junior shows strong acting and comedic abilities in a role that has her confronting a bullying partner one minute, then getting swept off her feet by a sexy deliveryman the next.

Elle's fitness guru client, Brooke Wyndham, is played by Archbishop Spalding High junior Emily Freeman in her Children's Theatre debut. She shines in an intensely athletic number, "Whipped into Shape."

Broadneck High junior Maddie Poole also impresses as Vivienne, an adversary who later becomes Elle's strong supporter.

The ensemble of "sorority girls" transforms from an accomplished dance troupe to a modern Greek chorus, along the way sharing wisdom in beauty salons and courtrooms. Noteworthy among the chorus members is Severn School eighth-grader Ella Green, who displays vocal skill and fine dance moves in her second Children's Theatre production.

Severna Park High senior Austin Heemstra, who over 10 years has participated in 16 CTA productions, brightens this one in the role of Emmett Forrest. He displays one of the best singing voices in the cast, and brings sincerity and passion to his portrayal of the teaching assistant who becomes increasingly devoted to Elle. As he "ages out" at Children's Theatre, Heemstra offers a memorable farewell performance.

Meanwhile, as Warner, Quellette plays his first leading role in his eighth CTA show. He sings well and convincingly portrays a character who evolves from handsome heartthrob to phony snob to rejected loser.

Other cast notables include Severna Park High sophomore Mac Smith, who summons notable maturity and strong stage presence in his portrayal of the ruthless Professor Callahan; and Broadneck 10th-grader A.J. Williams, who plays a trio of characters, including the comic pool boy Nikos.

Everyone in this talented 30-member cast, and the dedicated production staff, is deserving of praise for adding the charm and high energy needed to bring this musical to life.

"Legally Blonde: The Musical" continues at the Children's Theatre of Annapolis, 1661 Bay Head Road, with a performance at 2 p.m. Jan. 20. Tickets are $15 for adults, and $12 for ages 60 and older and for children 12 and younger. To order, call 410-757-2281.

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