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Legally Blonde: The Musical at Ferndale Rep

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If you're much over the age of 13, you've likely been there at least once — that place where we are so madly in love and so wildly convinced that it is both true and enduring that we are willing to undertake absolutely any action in its pursuit. It isn't the most logical of places, nor the healthiest, but it is certainly relatable. When we just know that Cupid's arrow has struck true, we surprise ourselves with what we can accomplish in our attempts to make it all end in a happily ever after.

Legally Blonde follows perky-in-pink protagonist Elle Woods as she works her way from Malibu party girl to Harvard Law prep, all in the name of love. Applying her signature style to any challenge, she proves to everyone that she's also accessorizing with some serious smarts. With the help of her own chorus of sorority sisters, some loyal friends and a whole lot of pink, Elle manages to come out on top of life and love. The musical, adapted from the 2001 film, spends much of its time reveling in stereotype-laden humor. While the story follows the traditional romantic comedy formula of people facing challenges and learning and growing along the way, the script never hesitates to go for the quick and easy laugh. As a result, the characters grow but the humor remains adolescent. In Ferndale Rep's production, it is a good reminder that while a good script cannot overcome lackluster performances, a mediocre one can succeed with the efforts of a sincere and dedicated cast.

As Elle, actress Jessie Rawson exudes a buoyant charm, a natural sweetness and innocence, all of which lend themselves to the part. As a singer, she handles ballads with special ease and the show provides more than one chance for her to show off. Director Molly Severdia amply manages to motivate a large ensemble, placing actors in comfortably fitting roles. In a production that is overflowing with glitz and glam, it is the more down-to-earth characters that manage to stand out. As Elle's beautician friend Paulette, actress Sarah Blair Seidt is delightful. Her capable voice and strong grasp of the role and its particular humor has the audience as engaged in her side story as it is in the outcome for Elle. (Though this is certainly helped by Dante Gelormino's passionate portrayal of Paulette's package-delivering paramour.) The program lists some offbeat names as well; that would be Beanie Boo and Lady Sansa, the two canine cast members. It is a unique and extreme challenge working with live animals on stage and, while they are certainly more cameos than lead roles, the fact that the cast and crew have taken on wrangling two dogs is an impressive and laudable feat.

The production makes use of recorded music — a logical decision for the show, the score is primarily high-energy pop — but skipping a live band means a lack of flexibility to adjust key and timing. The upbeat choreography, by Anthony Hughes and Molly Severdia, has the whole ensemble skipping and snapping all over the stage. Of particular note is the impressively in-synch jump rope number "Whipped into Shape," featuring Jessie Shieman in the role of fitness guru Brooke. The entire show is highlighted by massive costuming work by Kevin Sharkey, who has produced a profusion of pink, sparkles and spandex. The set, designed by Raymond Gutierrez, is every Barbie's dream house, fully bedecked in swirling lights and twinkling hearts. It works well to set the mood but the number of set pieces and changes clearly have the cast scrambling. However, if the scene changes seem clunky, they are balanced by effortless costume changes — there are quite a few of them, many done quickly.

Overall, the show is a silly, fun romp that works because the actors believe in what they are doing. A feminist epic it is not, but it certainly makes for a carefree evening out. Legally Blonde continues at Ferndale Rep through Sept. 6, with performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $18 general admission, $16 for students and seniors. For more information, call 786-5483.

Upcoming:

Redwood Curtain presents Last Gas by John Cariani, playing Aug. 27 through Sept. 19. This comedy about a man at a crossroads between old and new love provokes both laughter and thought. The show runs Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. with an additional matinee on Sunday, Sept. 13 at 2 p.m. For more information call 443-7688.

Continuing:

Plays in the Park continues its season in Redwood Park with two shows. Shakespeare's Twelfth Night (or What You Will) plays Fridays and Saturdays through Sept. 5 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12. The free family show The Unprincess plays at 2 p.m. and continues on Sundays through Sept. 6.

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About The Author

Kate Haley

Bio:
Dog mom, amateur photographer, and theatre kid, Kate Haley is currently working towards her degree in critical race, gender and sexuality studies at Humboldt State University.

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