Regional Reviews: Phoenix
The story follows the very perky and likable Elle Woods who follows her boyfriend Warner to Harvard Law School after he jilts her, in an attempt to win him back. Heather Hach's book for the musical, which is based on the screenplay by Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith and the novel by Amanda Brown, follows the film plot almost exactly. While that means the storyline doesn't offer many new plot points if you know the film, it actually is a good thing, as the screenplay and musical script both establish well-rounded characters who learn and grow throughout the story.
When Elle learns that Warner doesn't believe she is "serious" enough to consider her marriage material, Elle finds support from her sorority sisters, her Harvard teaching assistant Emmett, and the slightly wacky beautician Paulette she befriends in Boston. With their help, Elle works through her setbacks and relishes her triumphs, along the way realizing that she's a lot smarter than she thought she was. She also ends up helping all of those close to her.
The infectious score by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin features over a dozen upbeat numbers that propel the plot forward while also providing plenty of character development. Almost every character learns and grows throughout. Hach's hilarious and heartfelt book and O'Keefe and Benjamin's witty, varied score and lyrics combine to create a fun, upbeat story of empowerment with the big message that the secret to success is in being true to yourself.
ASU's cast is top notch, and the fact that they are all college-aged kids playing almost all characters of the same age makes this the first time I've seen the show with an age-appropriate cast, which adds a nice element of authenticity to the whole production. Caelan Creaser is excellent as Elle. She injects the character with the right combination of spunk, compassion, a big heart, good comic timing, and also a sure-footed serious side to bring Elle vibrantly to life while also letting us see that she has her flaws. Creaser's rich, polished singing voice sounds superb on her many upbeat tunes and ballads while also adding plenty of shine and sparkle to the many humorous lyrics in the score.
With a clear singing voice, direct line delivery and a charming and warm disposition, Drake Sherman does very well as the frumpy teaching assistant Emmett who helps Elle see who she truly is and who ends up being helped by Elle as well. Sara Bruton is a crowd pleaser and a riot as Paulette, the kooky hairdresser with the giant heart who befriends Elle. Her powerful voice soars on her solo, "Ireland."
In the supporting cast, Austin Delp is good as Elle's slimy law professor Callahan, though I wish he were a little more snarky and smarmy. Tim Powers projects the right sense of entitlement and inflated ego as Warner, and he manages to add a level of likability to the role. As Warner's new Harvard girlfriend Vivienne, Julia Davis perfectly transitions from the cold-hearted woman who thinks Elle is a joke to the warm person who realizes that Elle is smarter than she originally thought. Davis also hits some impressive high notes on the title tune. Anissa Griego does well as the accused murderess whom Elle and Emmett defend, and Angelica McGrew has perfect comic delivery that gets some big laughs with just a simple look or gesture as the lesbian-feminist law student Enid Hoops. There are a few small parts that pop, including Elyssa Blonder, Breanna Ghostone and Sara Sanderson as the energetic, sassy and spunky trio of Elle's sorority sisters; Vaughn Sherman adds some nice sexual heat as the hunky UPS deliveryman Paulette falls for; and John Batchan and Julian Mendoza prove to be audience favorites who get big laughs as an over the top, squabbling but lovable couple.
Director/choreographer Roy Lightner keeps the pace of the show lively, with swift direction, seamless scene changes, and superb choreography that is infused with humor and always-changing steps and moves. He even brings in a drumline for one song and adds plenty of other original directorial choices throughout. Brian Demaris' music direction and conducting of the sensational sounding 15-piece band are excellent. Creative elements include Alfredo Escarcega's simple but inventive and fun set design, the bright and colorful costumes from Maci Hosler, and perfect hair and makeup from Sharon Jonesher hairstyle for Paulette is superb. Matt Stetler's lighting is vibrant and the sound design by Matt Drui is clear and crisp.
With a solid cast, direction that is both fluid and infused with dozens of original ideas, plus creative elements that are bright and polished, ASU LOT's production of Legally Blonde is bright, funny and full of heart.
Legally Blonde The Musical, through April 22, 2018, by Arizona State University / Lyric Opera Theatre, at the Evelyn Smith Music Theatre in the ASU School of Music, 50 E. Gammage Pkwy., Tempe AZ. Tickets can be purchased and information on upcoming productions can be found at music.asu.edu/events/lot.
Director/ Choreographer: Roy Lightner