Stage Struck Review

Reviews for theater within the greater Los Angeles area.

“Legally Blonde” at Candlelight: Froth, Fun and a Bit of a Message

IMG_0838_preview

Callandra Olivia as Elle and Jordan Killion as Emmett in Candlelight Pavilion’s “Legally Blonde” [Photo: Demetrios Katsantonis]

The management of Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theater in Claremont has had a remarkable timeliness this past year or so. On the night that white supremacists were marching in Charlottesville, they were opening “South Pacific,” with its messages about the dangers of racial intolerance. As the “Me Too” movement took hold they were running “9 to 5”. As the immigration debate heated up, “Ragtime,” concerning immigration and racial issues at the turn of the last century, was running on their stage. And now, in the most lighthearted of these, the musical based on the film “Legally Blonde” echoes in comic form the push for women’s equality in the workplace commonly called “Time’s Up.”

So, how does this “Legally Blonde” stack up? The show proves polished and teeming with youthful energy. The storyline, silly as it is, comes as a kind of affirmation of hard work, and a rejection of the exclusionary silver-spoon contingent of our society. The music, though comparatively unmemorable, leads to a number of striking dance numbers. In short this is delightfully breezy piece with a quietly serious core.

Essentially, the story follows Elle Woods, a UCLA sorority girl who has skated through college with the understanding that she will end up married to a boy from a prominent family. When that boy rejects her instead and leaves for Harvard Law School, Elle’s sorority sisters help her prep for the LSAT, and she ends up accepted there as well. Once it becomes clear that the boyfriend, Warner, has more upper-crust marriage intents, Elle buckles down as a law student, encouraged by Emmett, another student from a comparatively humble background. Soon she begins to shine on her own, if only as a form of vengeance.

Callandra Olivia has a great time as Elle, creating a character which manages to do what this part always needs: begin as a stereotype and then rise out of it toward a specific ethic and professionalism. As the offensive non-fiance, Warner, Matthew Malecki manages to be as condescending  as needed, and as needy as written. Tara Shoemaker radiates all the nastier traits of the privileged class as Warner’s new love interest.

As Emmett, Jordan Killion balances a mild geekiness with whatever is the mature version of a gee-whiz view of the world. As the hairdresser who keeps Elle grounded – and whose personal concerns provide Elle with proof of the power of knowing the law, Molly Stilliens has an absolute ball, particularly when drooling over Nic Olsen’s UPS guy. As the professor who both gives Elle her big shot and proves her biggest wake-up call, Ron Hastings has a command and a harshness which make that part the catalyst it should be.

Director Chuck Better keeps this very episodic tale moving, in part thanks to his own design for an equally impressive moving collection of set pieces. Alison Keslake’s choreography creates atmosphere and keeps the focus on the lighter, sillier parts of the piece. Rod Bagheri’s musical direction leads to fine ensemble work. if only the mics were set quite so “boomy”, as some essential lyrics get lost in the electronic tonalities.

Still, if you are looking for a bright, airy evening of theater – there are even two dogs on stage – and an light-hearted, mildly feminist message, then “Legally Blonde” is for you. Put on your pink, and come watch justice prevail for a night.

What: “Legally Blonde”  When: through July 14, doors open for dinner at 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 5 p.m. Sundays, and for lunch 11 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Where: Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theater, 455 W. Foothill Blvd. in Claremont. How Much: $63-$78 adult, $30-$35 children 12 and under, meal inclusive. Info: (909) 626-1254, ext. 1 or www.candlelightpavilion.com

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: