Love! They’re doing this for love! And love will see them through— the incredibly talented cast of Legally Blonde at Silhouette Stages! Yes, love! They’ve got a lot of love— and with love on their side they can’t lose! Now appearing in the Slayton House Theater of Wilde Lake Village Center, Silhouette Stages’ final production of the 2016/2017 season— Legally Blonde is here to show you a thing or to about pop-modern movie-musicals! Directed by TJ Lukacsina with Co-Musical Direction by Nathan Scavilla and Michael Wolfe, the vivacious heart and effervescent soul that goes into the production is truly astonishing, making this one bright pink and peppy musical that you won’t want to miss this spring.
Like a true lawyer, let’s cut right to the chase and get the problems out of the way. Director TJ Lukacsina, who doubles as the show’s Set Designer, fails to provide an adequate setting for this extraordinarily talented cast to perform their show. With wobbly door frames that appear to be on the verge of collapse every time someone opens or shuts the door, the audience is distracted from the amazing singing and performing, preoccupied with whether or not the set might fall down mid-scene. Less is more, and the audience is far more readily able to suspend their disbelief without doors and rolling scenery to focus on the fabulous cast putting their heart and soul into every song and dance routine on stage. Lukacsina also makes some questionable directorial choices— like bringing a lone member of the prisoner jump-roping chorus out into the house to wildly swing a jump rope around during “Whipped Into Shape” (again causing distraction for fear of safety concerns)— that don’t fit the overall vibe of the production he’s created. To his credit, Lukacsina has done an exceptional job of casting the production, each person in their role exceptionally well fitted to their characters. But with such an amazing cast, there should be a completed and functional set and working aesthetic to support rather than overshadow the talent performing on stage.
Costume Designer Andrew Malone is equally uneven in his design approach to the production. For every stellar choice he makes— like the trashy but classy outfits seen on Paulette or Elle’s engagement dress— there seems to be an awkward one floating about— like the lurid fuchsia top featured on Vivian, who simply would never wear any shade of pink period because it’s not in her character. Malone does his best to keep unity among the ensemble when it comes to outfitting the Delta Nu girls, but even this proves to be tricky. Elle’s penultimate costume, the big pink reveal is somewhat of a disappointment as well for anyone familiar with the script, show, or the movie. But Malone does succeed in transforming Emmett from ratty corduroy to polished with a hint of Elle’s finesse as well as when it comes to keeping the three supporting sisters of Delta Nu unified in their overall aesthetic.
These design and directorial issues aside, there is plenty to rave about when it comes to the stellar quality of the production. Lighting Designer Lana Riggins uses a variety of colors and balances warm and cool settings to augment emotional moments throughout the production. Wig Designer Tommy Malek has everyone’s hair looking spectacular, particularly Elle Woods and her almost imperceptibly perfect blonde tresses, as well as Chutney’s perm, and Enid’s perm-to-not-perm up-do. Properties Mistress Ande Kolp creates an air of authenticity with little things in Paulette’s Salon, Elle’s dorm room, and even the courtroom to help build a sense of theatricality on the set.
The design star of the show, however, is truly Choreographer Rikki Lacewell. With a perpetually indefatigable energy that is infused into each dance routine, Lacewell goes at the production with gusto, keeping the dance routines crisp but adventurous. There’s a little bit of everything included in each routine—a strange yet humorous nod to The Peanuts and their particular shuffle-foot dancing style in “Omigod You Guys” as well as some high-octane jump rope moves featured during “Whipped Into Shape.” The show’s choreography is on the level with the show’s performance talent, which is exceptional.
The ensemble is powerful and filled with an unmatchable energy, particularly when it comes to the more uplifting numbers like “What You Want”, “So Much Better”, and “There! Right There!” Standout performances among the ensemble include Amy Haynes, who appears briefly at the end of the production as Chutney, and Kristen Zwobot, who steals the courtroom scene for two seconds with her recitation of “scene of the crime.” Haynes, as Chutney, is a cameo character but all eyes are on her during her 15 seconds of fame; between her sarcasm and her outrageous goth look, she becomes a scene stealer as well in this moment. Character man R. Brett Rohrer, taking up Elle’s Dad, a Harvard exec, and Dewey, nails each track distinctively and really makes the audience loathe his Dewey portrayal. And let’s not forget the studly Kyle (Rob White) who struts his stuff and takes every opportunity to ratchet up the sexual nature of his character’s arrival. (Bonus points to Lighting Designer Lana Riggins for spotlighting his package on arrival!)
Featured ensemble singers include the pompous creep Aaron Schultz (John Carter), the obnoxious yet charismatic Sundeep Padamadan (Jordan Essex) and Enid Hoops (Parker Bailey Steven), all of whom can be heard harmonizing during “The Harvard Variations.” Steven, whose popping personality is audacious and unmistakable, pops up periodically throughout the production and holds her own against the other principal and supporting characters. Michael Nugent and Johnny Dunkerly also deserve a nod of praise for their duet finale during “There! Right There!” which puts their fabulously flamboyant sides on display to bring the number to its well-deserved conclusion.
The production is filled with belting queens who make the most of their moments in the spotlight whenever they’re given a phrase to fulfil. Summer Hill, as the fitness queen Brooke Wyndham, does exactly that during “Whipped Into Shape” and her overall approach to the character is snappy and impressive. Kendall Nicole Sigman, Jennie Phelps, and Nia Smith, as Serena, Margot, and Pilar respectively, do the same for their features during “Omigod You Guys”, “Positive” and “Bend and Snap.” This quartet of females set shining examples for the other girls of the ensemble; as Delta Nu sisters (yes, even Brooke Wyndham), their energetic enthusiasm is contagious.
Adding a sensational sound to the female cast, though definitely not a sister of Delta Nu, Allison Bradbury gets her belt on as the vicious Vivienne. With a frigid attitude and a phenomenal handle on icy facial features, Bradbury puts her voice to work in “Legally Blonde Remix” and belts out with sensational power for all to hear. Playing opposite of Bradbury, though he starts out opposite of Elle Woods, Stephen Foreman takes on the persona of Warner Huntington III with great aplomb. With a sound voice, the appropriate shallowness, and all around general unease that is called for with the character, Foreman is an excellent choice for the role. His featured solo, “Serious” showcases both his vocal ability and his emotional capacity, which is later stretched beyond the character’s limits in the production.
Sinister never sounded so good as it does when Ryan Geiger tackles the supporting role of Professor Callahan. With a razor sharp icy edge to his speaking voice as well as his singing voice, Geiger gives you the shivers, sending wave after wave of nauseating revulsion up your spine every time he opens his mouth. There is an unction that is beyond slick to the way he presents Callahan, which makes his major plot twist that much more jarring and blindsiding. Nailing the emotional disconnect of the character, Geiger puts a ferocious swing into “Blood in the Water” and you can all but feel the guts churning out of him when he finishes the number.
Running away with the show’s comedy flailing behind her in the Irish morning breeze, Michele D. Vicino-Coleman takes to Paulette like the fresh morning dew takes to the moors. Mastering her slightly Jersey-Brooklyn-muddled accent, Vicino-Coleman pays homage to the Paulettes who have come before her while making her a unique incarnation all her own. With powerful pipes, and fitting right into the belttress club happening among the cast, Vicino-Coleman blasts out “Ireland” and impresses the audience even further by softening her voice for the serendipitously sweet “Find My Way/Finale” combo that she shares with Elle and Vivienne. The chemistry she shares with Rob White, playing eye-candy Kyle, is hysterical and really amps up the romantic shenanigans featured in the show.
Elle Woods (Lindsey Landry) is who the show’s about, and it can be said without a shadow of a doubt that Lindsey Landry is what you want— and what you want is right in front of you! Fierce, sassy, composed, and with a voice that would give Laura Bell Bundy a run for her money, Landry is Legally Blonde incarnate. Owning every moment she’s on stage with confidence, even when her character is in doubt, there is something divine about the way she portrays Elle. Maybe it’s her convivial interactions with Emmett (Matt Wetzel) or the chemistry that they share, which granted gets off to a rocky start but grows into something truly beautiful as the show progresses. Or maybe it’s the way she belts out “So Much Better” like it is her torch song and 11 o’clock number all in one.
Wetzel, who is best known and recognized for his comic shtick, brings a mind-blowing performance to the stage as Emmett. Level-headed, smooth, and vocally brilliant, Wetzel soars through the evening succeeding every time he sets foot on stage. “Chip On My Shoulder” is one of the most vocally sincere and yet driven as hell numbers performed in the production. Hints of humor still carry with solidarity through Wetzel’s performance, and there is an internalization his natural jittery energy that serves the character well during “Take It Like a Man”, which is mostly Elle’s solo. The pair have an unspeakably organic chemistry; they were made for one another in these roles, understanding the finer nuances of each other’s characters, giving and taking from one another as their romantic stories interweave.
Landry and Wetzel carry the torches of the production, blazing a path for marvelous supporting talents— like Bradbury, Foreman, Geiger, and Vicino-Coleman— to follow in their wake and uphold an exceptional standard when it comes to performance quality. Their chemistry is sublime, their duets are priceless, their solos are sensational. There isn’t a negative thing can be said for either Landry as Elle or Wetzel as Emmet; both are perfection in their roles. These two alone make the cost of admission, for any theatergoer, well worth paying. The talent, which is proudly on display in wide swathes all across the stage, is the shining star of this production; singing, dancing, and belting its heart and soul out into these fun, poppy, and upbeat numbers. Come see, come feel, come be Legally Blonde. Oh! Omigod! Almost forgot the incredibly sweet and talented dogs! Definitely come see the dogs! Bruiser (Biscuit Boo Bradbury) and Rufus (Olive Anne Landry) are definitely worth the price of admission times two!
Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with one intermission
Legally Blonde plays through May 28, 2017 at Silhouette Stages in the Slayton House Theater of Wilde Lake Village Center— 10400 Cross Fox Lane in Columbia, MD. For tickets call the box office at (410) 637-5289 or purchase them online.