Review: Great dance moves, winning cast perk up Broadway Palm's 'Legally Blonde'
IF YOU GO
What: Blonde sorority girl Elle Woods crashes the party at Harvard Law School
When: Tuesday through Sunday evenings with selected matinees through May 13.
Where: 1380 Colonial Boulevard, Fort Myers (in Royal Palm Square)
Cost: $27 to $51. Show only $27.
Information: 239-278-4422 or broadwaypalm.com
Something Else: Ticket prices include meal & show; show-only tickets available
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FORT MYERS — Omigod you guys! The color pink exploded all over Broadway Palm. Hurricane Elle Comma Woods blew into town last week - and doesn't plan to stop until the whole of Southwest Florida succumbs to the charms of "Legally Blonde." Good thing then that the show charms the pink heels off audiences.
The show hews to the plot of the 2001 film, which starred Reese Witherspoon. Blonde sorority girl Elle Woods follows her boyfriend to Harvard Law School, learns something about herself and get a boy (just not the one she thought she wanted) after all.
The chief attraction of "Legally Blonde" lies in its relentlessly cheery, positive message. Rump-shaking choreography, infectious dance numbers and peppy, upbeat tunes practically rival Disney in the "happy-happy joy-joy" factor. Even if the show proves a great big puff of tasty cotton-candy nothing, it sure is a great big honking, happy-slappy super-duper-fun night.
It isn't fun to listen to though. The live band contains just keyboards, trumpet, percussion and reeds with the rest of the instruments on pre-recorded tracks. The sound emerges tinny and shallow; the music does little to support the show and often seems like it actively pulls the energy down. Tuesday's performance also suffered from problems with the wireless mics that seemed to leave performers muffled or staticky.
Realistically, I understand that economics prevent Broadway Palm from having a full orchestra on stage for nine shows a week during the show's run, especially during the days when there's a matinee and an evening performance. Still, "Legally Blonde," moreso than recent shows, seems to suffer from not having a complete complement of live instruments.
The show draws on assistant director and choreographer Amy Marie McCleary's thrilling, buoyant choreography for much of its charm. Broadway-quality dance numbers from a limber young ensemble explode off the stage, from the sorority girls of "Ohmigod You Guys" to cheer team of "What You Want" and bootylicious girl-power anthem "Positive."
Maris Fernandes brings effervescent charm to her Elle Woods. The actress has an effortless radiance that recalls the qualities Witherspoon brought to the role. Fernandes handles the vocals well, tosses off the sassy quips with glee and obviously adores the pink, pink and more pink fashion parade.
Morgan Springer delights as sassy hairstylist Paulette. She gives depth the character's comedic silliness with a big, bold style and outrageous manner. Drew Stark gets laughs and whistles when he mugs for the audience as Paulette's UPS delivery-man boyfriend Kyle (ladies LOVE those tight shorts!).
Alyson Bloom shines in the ensemble, especially during the fierce "work it girl" advice paean "Bend and Snap" that surpasses even the title number in pure joy. Bloom, Nina Schreckengost and Ericka Simone Covington deliver some of the night's best dance moves as part of Elle's "Greek Chorus." The show's worth it for the dancing alone.
Mary Atkinson's costumes deliver on the vivid promise of blushing pink, including a succession of delightful dresses in shades of rose, magenta and carnation. There's also Elle's sparkling, crystal-covered lavender graduation robe and her signature Rose pink stilettos. Costumes for the Delta Nu girls might be just as entertaining - silver tights, anyone?
Despite some musical stumbles, "Legally Blonde" serves oodles of charm and rosy pink delights. Fernandes dazzles as the bubbly, blonde Elle and the bumping, bootylicious dance moves are sure to keep you entertained.
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