Presented by Arlington Friends of the Drama
Music and Lyrics by Laurcen O’Keefe and Neil Benjamin
Book by Heather Hach
Directed by James Tallach
Music Direction by Stephen Peters
Choreography by Theresa Melito
Disclaimer: Queen of the Geeks, Kitty Drexel is involved in this production. The following review takes this into consideration and was written and edited accordingly.
Review by Danielle Rosvally
(Arlington) Adaptation is an odd and fickle creature. In the rash of non-musical-movie to Broadway adaptations that have hit the theatre scene over the course of the last five or ten years, we’ve seen everything from Julie Taymore’s travesty (Spiderman: Turn off the Dark), to the possibly better-than-its-source Spamalot.
Legally Blonde is one that has a soft spot in my heart simply because Reese Witherspoon in her dayglow-pink skirted suits has always been something of an inspiration to me. Here’s a woman who’s hot, smart, and makes both work for her in her own way without conforming to society’s boxes. Legally Blonde was also the first film in my conscious memory that showed me a “popular girl” with a heart of gold. Elle Woods has never stood for changing people (unlike her predecessor Cher Horowitz), but rather helping the women around her see value in what they are. Really; who couldn’t use a little bend and snap now and again?
Needless to say, I’ve been hankering to see the musical version for years. The Arlington Friends of the Drama gave me that opportunity.
The show is cute. For that, the music is horrendously complicated and extremely difficult to sing which makes it an odd choice for a community theatre and I’m not entirely convinced that AFD pulled it off. With no offense meant to Cai Radleigh (the production’s blonde-wig-toting Elle), I think the real star of the show is costume designer Courtney Butt. Every pump was in place, every outfit perfectly accessorized, and despite the wide and sundry wardrobe demands this show presents, Butt managed to flawlessly accouter the large cast for every occasion (business casual, to workout chic, to prison jumpsuit, to marching band glam).
The AFD stage is an odd and difficult space with some quirky sound issues. Like many small fringe theatres in the Boston area, AFD has acquired and converted a church for use as a theatre space. The problem with this is that, while a certain spot on the stage is meant to be a center for projection (the pulpit would have been placed here), that’s the only acoustically sound physical location from which to preach. The ceilings are lofty, the wing areas are massive; the building just swallows sound. As a result, any action which occurred behind the proscenium was nearly inaudible. The sound design was flawed in that the live band over-powered the voice despite the actors all being outfitted with body mics. While large group numbers were perfectly fine due to the sheer volume of voices onstage, solos within these songs were essentially swallowed by poor mic levels.
Despite its foibles, this production had all the eager enthusiasm of the best community theatre. It was clear that a great deal of heart went into the making of this show (which, in my opinion, is essential for Legally Blonde). It definitely hit its stride in the second act with fun numbers like “Whipped into Shape” and, my personal favorite, “Gay or European”.
I also have to give props to the little thieves who stole this show: LuLu Rae and Nena who played pooches Bruiser and Rufus respectively. Even my bitter reviewer’s heart simply melted at the appearance of these furry little guys.