Young Artists Ensemble’s Legally Blonde is Legally Awesome!

Elle1Elle Woods (McKenna Tedrick) is the quintessential Malibu Barbie that has everything, including the most handsome boyfriend ever, Warner Huntington III (Jordan M. Schneider). Warner is off to Harvard Law School and thinks Elle is not serious enough for him. When he breaks up with her during a date instead of proposing to her, Elle falls into a self-destructive spiral until she gets the inspiration to apply to Harvard. When she is accepted, she arrives with her little dog Bruiser to find law school is inhabited by a seriously pretentious bunch of snobs, including Warner’s old prep school mate, and new girlfriend, Vivian Kensington (Natalia Vivino). Vivian takes delight in ridiculing Elle and crushing her confidence. In a moment of desperation, Elle is saved from committing a potential beauty crime (going brunette) by Paulette the hair dresser (Aly Valles), who has her own problems with love.

Aided by the nerdy and frumpy Emmett Forrest (Parker Apple), Elle learns how to succeed in school, while she builds his confidence and teaches him the value of style and personal presentation. Ultimately, Elle, Emmett, Vivian, and Warner are all selected for a coveted internship that has them defending fitness magnate Brooke Windham (Anthea Sobie), a client of their pompous law school instructor Professor Callahan (Brandon Lawrence). When “serious” defenders are unable to think out of the legal box, Elle’s ability to understand and develop trust with the client and spot a lying witness make her the savior. The thrill of victory is short-lived when Callahan makes an unwelcome pass at her and she learns she was only selected for her looks. Just when she is ready to quit and go home, her peers rally to her side and support her completion of law school…as Valedictorian!

Casting for this show was spot on! The cast is quite large and I’m sure casting such a big show can be challenging. To end up with the lead roles the way they did is amazing in and of itself. Tedrick brought Elle to life on this stage and is an amazingly talented singer and actress. She seemed to embrace the personal growth of her character, and she adapted her performance throughout the show as her character grew.  She owned her role and I was impressed that her voice could hold out with that much singing. Aly Valles was cast as Paulette, a Jersey hair stylist. I last saw her in Mulan, so hearing her with a Jersey accent as Paulette was kinda funny and showed some versatility. She has a big voice, and can do the “bend and flip” with the best of them. Natalia Vivino plays the condescending Vivian Kensington, who later becomes Elle’s supporter. She does “serious” well and was convincing as a stuffy preppy. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll see just how perfectly Vivino portrayed Vivian. Lauren Alexander’s portrayal of Enid is worth mention as well. She doesn’t have many lines, but her physical double-takes just oozed feminism.

For the guys, this must have been a dream play considering the ratio. Since there were far fewer guys, many carried multiple roles. Both Schneider and Parker as the lead men had strong voices and embodied their characters well. I enjoyed watching Apple’s character grow and adapt. My only criticism is that I would have liked to see Warner be a bit less likable. There are two other guys that deserve mention for playing multiple roles. Sean McCarthy was funny as the hunky UPS man Kyle (also Dewey trailer trash, and prison guard). Every entry and exit was made with a beautifully deliberate faux-strut accompanied by a soundtrack that could have come from an adult film. We also saw Gabriel Nunag play everything from a middle-eastern student and a tough breakdancer to an effeminate pool boy. He always seems to give his characters a little flash.

This play has a big ensemble that does a lot of dancing, singing, and clothes changing. They were students, cheerleaders, sorority girls, workout video girls, and inmates. There was a lot of choreography to learn and they obviously worked very hard to make the whole play come together. The show wouldn’t have been the same without their talent. Kate Peltola did a tremendous job choreographing all the dance routines, which were creative and demanding.

Finally, this is a musical and I’m a musician, so I need to point out the quality of the live orchestra. It would have been easy to buy a canned download of the music and play it for the songs, but YAE brought in real musicians to do all the music. These young musicians are all ringers and well-conducted by Susan Treworgy-Calkins. It made the whole show more energetic to have live music. I appreciated that the music didn’t overpower the play. You all deserve some love for a great performance.

The show continues through August 9th. For show times and tickets, CLICK HERE

Here are a few photos I managed to get at the final dress rehearsal. They are from an iphone in the dark from a ways back so they are not very suitable for framing, but they show a great group of young performers having a great time with their craft. You can find some better pics HERE.

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