“LEGALLY BLONDE” at the Orange Park Community Theatre: Filled With Wit And Clever Numbers

ORANGE PARK COMMUNITY THEATRE REVIEW

The Orange Park Community Theatre opened the final show of its 47th season on June 9, 2017 with the musical “Legally Blonde.” It will be on stage at 2900 Moody Avenue through July 2. Call 904-276-2599 for reservations.

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Legally Blonde” began as a novel, was made into a successful film musical starring Reese Witherspoon in 2001, and was transformed into a stage musical in 2007. It remains a popular musical in the USA.

The music and lyrics by Neil Benjamin and Laurence O’Keefe (of “Batboy: The Musical” fame) are upbeat, and along with the book by Heather Hack, very humorous. Briefly, the plot concerns the very lovely and very blonde Elle Woods. The character is portrayed by Florida School of the Arts sophomore Caitlin Charrier, who has a strong stage presence and a strong voice and is terrific in this demanding role. Elle has majored in fashion merchandising at UCLA, was elected president of her sorority, and loves dressing in pink. But her life’s direction changes abruptly after being cast aside by her wealthy boyfriend Warner, portrayed by Paxon School for Advanced Studies graduate Corey Rose. She was expecting a proposal, but Warner is on his way to Harvard Law School. As he explains it, it’s time for them to break up, because he needs someone beside him to support his career ambitions: a woman who is “a Jackie, not a Marilyn.”

The spunky Elle is determined to show Warner that she is more than a beauty with a million-dollar smile and a gorgeous body, and gets herself admitted to Harvard as a law student. This California girl is eager to show those New England stuffed shirts and Warner’s new fiancée Vivienne (FSCJ Theatre Major Nicole Labadie) that a pampered blonde can have brains. But it’s not easy at first, since she comes to class dressed in pink and totally unprepared. Elle finds a new love interest in Emmett (Neal Baker), a smart and handsome but easygoing teaching assistant, who persuades her to apply herself to her studies.

Colorful characters abound. Shyler Matchett, who just moved here from Tallahassee, appears as Paulette, a very funny robust Irish hairstylist who sings “Ireland,” one of the best songs in the show. She befriends Elle, who provides advice about reviving a dormant love life during the hilarious number “Bend and Snap.” Paulette finds the love of her life with Kyle (Will Cook) a handsome and muscular UPS driver, whose entrance caused a quite a stir in the audience. Perhaps it was the short shorts he was wearing; they didn’t appear to be UPS regulation issue.

Actor Evan Bowen as Professor Callahan was the picture of arrogant authority and sang the very funny “Blood in the Water.” If you know any lawyer jokes, you know that song was about sharks.

Actress Jessica Saracino portrays Brooke Wyndham, who has been accused of murdering her husband. She says she is innocent but is refusing to reveal the details of an alibi that may save her life. Ms. Saracino sings well, and has a figure that makes her believable as a fitness instructor.

One cast member was an overwhelming crowd favorite, despite his short stage time. Storm, an Alaskan Malamute, obviously enjoyed his OPTC debut, as shown by his wagging tail. Bruiser Woods, Elle’s dog, was portrayed by the fluffy petite Lilly.

The remaining members of this large cast (35 strong), are constantly on and off the stage in various roles and costumes, which included beauty salon patrons, cheerleaders, courtroom staff, guards, lawyers, parents, prison inmates, salespeople, students, and waiters. Ellie has a fantasy Greek Chorus of gorgeous and talented sorority sisters who act as a backup for many of her songs.

The important others who round out Elle’s story include Emily Poehiman, Kendall Berry, Breanna Shuman, Sara Rogers, Maria Masters, Cindy Baker, Izzy Hague, Brian Champion, Clare Hambleton, Theresa Buchanan, Steve Cohn, Amanda Bain, Debbie Stithem, Darlene Noel, Danielle Summerton, Christopher Toombs, Haley Renault, Joseph Howard, Madeline Gamel, D J Zene, and Ronni Spangler.

For the first time in the many years we have reviewed OPCT for EU Jacksonville, the music was supplied by a computer program. The system worked well for the most part, except for one section where the cast arrived at their places on stage, and found the music was a bit behind the start of the song. This is excellent training for those continuing in musical theatre as more and more venues are using pre-recorded music.

The many costumes were colorful and appropriate for the action on the stage; the program doesn’t list a costumer.

The show is filled with wit and clever numbers. In addition to “Bend & Snap,” we particularly liked “Whipped into Shape,” and an unexpected Irish Step Dance by Paulette and Kyle was a crowd pleaser. Another intriguing number was “Gay or European,” performed during a courtroom scene.

A special note about the exceptional program: Aimee Lowe compiled the information which includes TEN pages of biographies for the cast and crew. In all the years we have written about theatre, we have never seen one so extensive.

The Orange Park Community Theatre will kick off its 48th season on August 11, 2017 with “Shrek.” Two additional musicals are planned for 2018, with “Kiss Me Kate” in February and “West Side Story” in June.

The Production Crew included: Tricia Williams (Director); Evan Bowen, Cynthia Baker and Javier Fernandez (Assistant Directors); Sara Green (Stage Manager); Ammerah Kalai (Assistant Stage Manager); Jordon Newsome (Stage Crew); Tricia Williams and Cynthia Baker (Lighting Design); Tiffany Chambers (Sound); Lucas Richards (Lights); Javier Fernandez and Missy Losure (Choreography); Vickie Lowe(Producer).

The Sunday matinee audience loved “Legally Blonde.” Don’t miss this fast-paced show, which has an upbeat ending and features a large cast filled with dedicated actors.

-A DUAL CRITICS REVIEW by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM

 

 

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.
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