Friday, October 25, 2013

Review: 3-D Theatricals' Big Pink Legally Blonde Musical

Stephanie Renee Wall as Elle Woods and company.
Photos by Isaac James Creative

Sometimes a girl just wants to have fun and that’s when a big pink musical like Legally Blonde comes in handy. Based on the film of the same name by Heather Hach (book) and Laurence O’Keefe & Neil Benjamin (music & lyrics), it is the story of Elle Woods, who conquers Harvard Law School and the perception of others as only an underestimated sorority girl can. 

3-D Theatricals will offer one more weekend of the vibrant musical at Plummer Auditorium in Fullerton before it transfers to Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center for a final three performances. Full of high-energy, upbeat production numbers and a cast of enthusiastic singers and dancers, it’s easy on the eyes and a fun time for theatre lovers of every age. Credit director David F.M. Vaughn with keeping this musical confection moving at every turn.

I saw the original Broadway production starring Laura Bell Bundy about a month after it opened in New York and was amazed by the sheer amount of energy needed to put on this show. It’s an almost non-stop ride, with Elle leading the charge, and a star-making role for any young leading lady who steps into the role.

3DT has found a gem in Stephanie Renee Wall, who fills the Jimmy Choos of her Broadway and film predecessors, (Bundy and Reese Witherspoon) as if they were made for her. Her version of the blonde in question is a little less ‘omigod you guys’ and a little more ‘I know I can do anything’ at the top of the show, which gives her less of a stretch in the overall journey, but she has loads of animated charm and a fresh appeal that makes this more intelligent version of Elle very engaging.

Lindsey Alley and Cameron Sczempka
Many of the key scenes from the film are musicalized like “So Much Better” when Elle realizes she’s on the list of interns to help Professor Callahan (Christopher Carothers) with Brooke Wyndham’s (Emma Degerstedt) murder trial, Elle’s “Bend and Snap” advice to Paulette (Lindsey Alley), and her transformation into serious student through an extended musical scene “Chip on my Shoulder” that shows the progression of her studies with Emmett (Matt Bauer) during the semester.

There are also some smart and funny additions, like Paulette’s dream of “Ireland,” which has a great comic reprise later in the show when the joke comes home, and an athletically ambitious “Whipped Into Shape” by Degerstedt and ensemble featuring breathless choreography by Linda Love Simmons.

Performances are mostly solid throughout. Alley and Cameron Sczempka, who plays UPS man Kyle, get a lot of comic mileage out of their scenes and Bauer goes through a terrific onstage transition from frumpy to suited-up and courtroom-ready-fabulous, in “Take It Like a Man.” Christopher Carothers nails “Blood in the Water” as power hungry Professor Callahan and Carly Nykanen and Matthew Benedict, as Vivienne and Warner, exhibit great vocal chops the few times they are featured. 

The most challenging part of this production, however, is being able to understand the women’s ensemble. Plummer Auditorium really swallows the sound on this one and lack of diction plus thick character accents cannot be understood over the orchestra. It happens right from the top with “Omigod You Guys” and “Daughters of Delta Nu” but continues to be a problem throughout. Audience members around me at intermission were enjoying the show but all were commenting on the fact that they couldn’t understand what was being said. Best thing to do if that is still the case after a week and a half of shows is just to sit back and enjoy the overall sound and effect, knowing you’ll get the basics of what’s going on even if you can’t hear the words.

So kick it in high gear and get your tickets now. This bright, happy musical, where the underdog wins and everything is lively and fun, will lift your spirits and make sure you have a rousing good time. 

The Girls of Delta Nu

Matt Benedict and Stephanie Renee Wall

Brad Fitzgerald,  Stephanie Renee Wall and company

Emma Degerstedt (center) and company

Stephanie Renee Wall

Now through November 3, 2013
3-D Theatricals
Tickets: (714) 589-2770 x 1 or

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