On Thursday last, I was fortunate enough to have gotten the last available ticket to Fort Findlay Playhouse’ production of “Legally Blonde.” It was a very interesting and fun choice for an evening’s entertainment. Based on the book by Heather Hach, and the film starring Reese Witherspoon, “Blonde” is that story of a jilted sorority girl, who applies for and is accepted to law school. She does this so she can be near; so she can impress, her ex, who considers her a detriment to his future career.
Our heroine, Elle Woods, appears to be her very own blonde joke. She seems more at home planning parties, or giving advice on wardrobe. Even after she sneaks into law school, she is not given credit for her legal mind. He classmates snub her, and her ex boyfriend, Warner Huntington III (Really?) tries hard to keep his distance, having just proposed to his snobby girlfriend.
Aided by a post-doc, who takes a shine to her, Elle fights her way through the chaff, and gets he gruff professor to pick her for his team in a huge court case. In the end, Elle’s common sense comes through, and she uses her experience in hair-care, to win the big case. As with the film, the improbability of her triumph is ignored, because we so want her to succeed.
Unlike the movie, and certainly unlike the book, this story is told with music. As I prepared to watch the show, I thought, “Reese Witherspoon did a terrific job with this. And she didn’t need no songs.” Unfortunately, that engenders a prejudice that can make the next 2 hours a disappointment. But, as usual, there was a reason the writers felt they could get away with putting the plot to music. They know what the average theatre-goer wants. The songs are peppy, and funny And, poignant and sassy, if not always memorable. I found the writing, both musical and verbal, to be cute, sweet and humorous. It was a very pleasant evening.
Directed by Samantha Henry, Assisted by Music Director Criag Van Reterghem, with choreography by Jerry Zimmerman, the show wastes little time getting right to the relationship between Ms. Woods and her Delta Nu sisters. They are all excited for, and a little jealous of, her association with the campus stud, Warner. The opening number, “Omigod, You Guys” is energetic and full of hope. The Sisterhood is clearly made evident. This creates a nice foreshadowing for later events. FFP’s version is edgy and honest. The “girls” owned it.
All the musical numbers were well rehearsed and executed. But one I absolutely loved was one entitled “Ireland”. Featuring nearly the entire cast step-dancing, this number turned the stage ito a visit from “Riverdance”. The audience appreciated Zimmerman’s choreography and the actors’ heart, for even attempting it. It was a very nice job. The guy next to me guffawed throughout.
Two more songs anchoring the second act, were my favorites. “Bend and Snap” documents and encourages the art of attracting a man’s attention. It was a funny turn for all involved. The following number, “Gay or European”, was easily the most clever and tongue-in-cheek song of the show. It asks the question whether the pool boy, acted a certain way because he was gay, or because he was from Europe. Turns out, both were true.
Megan Meyer, as Elle, was appropriately, equal part pretty, blonde, dense, and likeable. We felt for her, as those in power in her life sought to control her. She had a winning way about her, which was Witherspoon-esque. Warner Huntington was played with “cool” and hubris by Brad Bickhart. We weren’t supposed to like him. And we didn’t. Nice performances were also turned in by David Marquart as the bespectacled lecher, Professor Callahan, and Dan Basinger as Elle’s father. Basinger always throws himself into his role. he has a powerful voice and great stage-presence. Marquart, while not having as powerful a voice, demonstrated his technique, as well as his acting range in this important role.
While these were several of the standouts, they were, by no means all. Everyone seemed to bring enthusiasm to their time on stage and their part in the story. All-in-all, I was impressed with the pacing, the continuity and the pride which permeated this production. I did have one, fairly small, criticism. The show being in its last weekend, was still hampered by a problem which should have been corrected after its first night. For whatever reason, the pit orchestra, elevated, and behind a curtain, seemed unable to gauge how much volume was necessary. Several songs had lyrics which were indecipherable due to being overplayed by the band. This was not true for every number, but enough so that I felt notice should have been taken. But this is a slight problem, compared to the overall production values imbued to this effort. It was well done, and well received.