By David L. MUNNELL
“Legally Blonde” the musical is one of my guilty pleasures. The upbeat and catchy music, the fun and quirky characters, all come together to form a perfect blend of a musical comedy.
I’m a huge fan of the original Broadway cast, and the production performed on the stage of the Youngstown Playhouse does not disappoint.
For those who haven’t seen the movie, the musical basically follows the same story only with flashy musical numbers. It begins in Malibu where fashion student Elle Woods, played by Lyndsay Stevens, decides to follow her recently ex-boyfriend, Warner Huntington III, played by Joshua William Green, to Harvard Law School where she hopes to win him back. Of course, shenanigans ensue and we fall in love with some extremely endearing characters.
Stevens carries this show. It’s hard to believe this young lady is only a junior in high school as her instincts are spot-on for such a large, show-driving role. I can’t wait to see what she will be able to do in a couple of years.
Following Elle Woods are the daughters of Delta Nu, the “Greek chorus” of the show. Rayshone Oliver, Emelia Sherin and Ashley Balas lead these phantom sorority sisters. These girls are a joy to behold as they “Bend and Snap” their way to glory.
Also along the way is Paulette, the owner of a local hair salon, played by Carla D. Gipson. I absolutely loved Gipson’s performance as there wasn’t a sour note in it. I only wish she would have cut loose a little more with her vocals as I could tell she had more to offer.
The men are no pushovers either. Tyler Clark as Professor Callahan, the Harvard law professor, is fantastically sharklike. Playing polar opposites are Green as Huntington III and Kristopher Ray North as the student teacher, Emmett. Both perform two sides of the same coin extremely well.
The last actress I have to mention is Claire Jeannette Blackledge. Much like her character, Vivienne — Warner’s new girlfriend, I didn’t have much hope for her performance. However, at a certain point in Act 2, the audience is introduced to what a powerhouse she truly is.
The orchestra was quite effective throughout the show — so much so, that I couldn’t hear any of the actors with or without a microphone. And forget about dialogue during a song; it was completely lost. Seriously, this problem must be addressed as it almost ruined the entire performance.
I wasn’t the only one to notice, either. Consider the fact that if I had a hard time hearing, imagine what the typical constituent of the Playhouse is likely to go through.
Also, the staging is horrendous. Any character with dialogue or music is pulled straight down center stage, and any person not involved directly is put in a picket-fence line, silently standing behind them. Luckily, the actors were able to push through this with their performances.
“Legally Blonde” at the Youngstown Playhouse is a wonderful way to spend an evening. The show plays today and next Sunday at 2:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. For more information and reservations, call 330-788-8739.