Saturday, May 4, 2013

QUICK TAKE REVIEW BLONDE Ambitions By Beverly Creasey

LEGALLY BLONDE The Musical (at Next Door Center for the Arts through May 18th) is the cautionary tale of a California sorority sister named Elle who uses her feminine wiles to get into Harvard Law School because her ex is there. The Reese Witherspoon movie proved that there is comic gold to be mined from such a ditsy premise—so naturally it became a musical (book by Heather Hatch/ music by Laurence O’Keefe & Neil Benjamin)!

The good news in director James Tallach’s wildly inventive production is that the singing, for the most part, is strong, with scene stealing sparkle from Liliane Klein as Paulette, Elle’s hairdresser buddy. Once Elle (Ashley Korelewski) gets her “perky” on, she’s a delight, too. Her Delta Nu pals, who function as an imaginary “Greek” cheerleading chorus, are dynamite from the get go, with show stopping antics from Jackie Theoharis and Kerri Wilson in the hilariously instructive “Bend and Snap.”

Tallach’s ensemble is a powerhouse, with standout performances from Peter S. Adams as the ferocious law professor, from Kevin Cirone as Elle’s shallow ex, from Abbey Casey as the butch women’s libber, from Anne Olmstead as the unjustly accused, from Scott Cohen as the dazzled Admissions officer and from Jesse Coleman as Paulette’s dreamboat, just to name a few. Lauren Hall’s choreography has lots of surprises, like her outrageous spring break shenanigans. By Act II, I was grooving to the music (Matt Stern, music dir.) and laughing myself silly over the “Gay or European?” conundrum.

Unfortunately, the actors are performing at a disadvantage, with makeshift costumes on an incomplete set. You don’t need much, as the North Shore Music Theatre proved last summer in the round: A couple of Harvard pennants, a Malibu road sign and the great seal of Massachusetts would have done the trick to set the scenes. As it is, alas, Next Door’s LEGALLY BLONDE looks like a first rate cast in a second rate production. That’s not fair to the actors (not to mention the audience).