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Review: "Legally Blonde" charms in Greendale

Laura Schachner is Elle Woods in Legally Blonde: The Musical
Laura Schachner is Elle Woods in Legally Blonde: The Musical
Photo by Rachel Bzdawka

Greendale Community Theatre's "Legally Blonde"

Rating:
Star5
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Star

Greendale Community Theatre consistently sets a high standard of quality in their productions, staging large-scale Broadway-sized musicals that are comparable to their big-budget Equity counterparts at pre-recession ticket prices ($15, cheap!) by tapping into an impressive font of budding young talent who are still in the resume building portion of their careers. GCT’s latest production “Legally Blonde: The Musical” is an ideal showcase for their particular brand of theatre, granting their youthfully exuberant cast members an opportunity to cut loose, dispense with all subtlety, and crank the energy level up to an 11.

“Legally Blonde: The Musical” is a fun and fluffy adaptation of the 2001 film of the same name, that basic cable staple responsible for elevating Reese Witherspoon to superstardom. The story revolves around the character of Elle Woods, a Malibu sorority queen eagerly seeking a marriage proposal from her boyfriend Warner Huntington III, a waspy New England blue blood with ambitions of becoming a U.S. Senator. However, Warner doesn’t see Elle as wife material and rebuffs her overtures of marriage. To prove her worthiness and win back her man, Elle gains admission to Harvard law school alongside Warner. After suffering through fish-out-of-water awkwardness and overcoming challenges in the dog-eat-dog world of hyper-competitive law students, Elle eventually learns to be her own rising star rather than trying to hitch her wagon to someone else’s. It’s a message of empowerment with universal application and appeal.

Since Elle Woods’ fatuous first world problems aren’t likely to fetch much sympathy from an audience, “Legally Blonde: The Musical” (music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin, book by Heather Hach) keeps things light, happily bounding along borne by sly humor, catchy ditties, and energetic ensemble song and dance numbers. First-time director Stephanie Staszak, herself an actor-singer-dancer triple threat performer and talented choreographer, expands her entertainment repertoire here driving her cast in an infectiously peppy staging.

The success of any production of “Legally Blonde” hinges upon the talents of its lead. While her sweet Midwestern girl-next-door good looks don’t exactly bespeak California beach babe, Laura Schachner brings a liveliness and unguarded openness to the role of Elle Woods, easily charming the audience with her joyful personality and dulcet singing voice.

Not to say that Ms. Schachner has to carry the show on her own. With a huge supporting cast game for anything, a pit orchestra providing live accompaniment, and a crackerjack production staff conjuring up over a dozen scene changes, innumerable props, and two actual dogs, she has all the help anyone could ask for.

GCT’s “Legally Blonde” offers an excellent excuse to visit the arcadian village of Greendale (if such an excuse is deemed necessary), a community established during the devastation of the Great Depression where the American Dream not only survived, it thrives to this day. How fitting that from such a singular community would emerge such exceptional community theatre.

More information and online tickets are available here.