Company’s ‘Legally Blonde’ is light, frothy fun

Sarah Kelly as Elle Woods and Christopher Spencer as Emmett in Legally Blonde. Photo: Zoe Bradford

Sarah Kelly as Elle Woods, Luna as Bruiser  and Christopher Spencer as Emmett in “Legally Blonde.” Photo: Zoe Bradford

NORWELL – When the weather gets hotter, the shows should get lighter.

“Death of a Salesman” doesn’t sell well in the summer, when our mood is lighter and sunnier.

What do we want? Something like the musical “Legally Blonde,” now being performed through August 20 at the Company Theatre.

Yes, the movie starring Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods, a seemingly vacuous California woman who somehow wins acceptance to Harvard Law School and charts her own course,was a huge hit, but “Legally Blonde” was also a bit of a surprise hit on Broadway, garnering seven Tony and 10 Drama Desk nominations and running for 30 previews and 595 regular performances.

It didn’t win any Broadway awards but did cop an Olivier Award in the West End of London, and it features a bouncy, catchy pop/rock score by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin, and that, combined with the humor and heart in the book by Heather Hach, carries the day.

The casting of heroine Elle Woods is al- important, and Sarah Kelly, a rising junior at Plymouth (N.H.) State College has the requisite wholesome good looks, a fine voice and and a personality that jumps off the stage and easily reaches the back row.

O’Keefe and Benjamin’s score gets off to a rousing start with the buoyant production number “Ohmigod You Guys” featuring Elle’s sisters in the Delta Nu Sorority at UCLA. Other highlights include “What You Want” – featuring Elle’s unusual “application” to Harvard Law — “So Much Better” and the hilarious “Bend and Snap.”

There are some fine supporting efforts behind Kelly, most notably a crowd-pleasing turn by Kyleigh Rose Bradley as Paulette, the hairdresser who befriends Elle and finds love with the UPS Guy (Ryan Barrow, shining in multiple roles).

Brendan Paine is a nice fit as Warner Huntington III, Elle’s haughty former preppy fiancee whom she pursues to Harvard, ultimately making him live to regret his decision to dump her.

Christopher Spencer is Emmett Forrest, the graduate assistant who takes a bewildered Elle under his wing and shows her the ropes while also showing her why he would be a better choice than Warner.

A. John Procaro is given a fairly tough road to hoe as Professor Callahan, the hard-nosed law professor who eventually gives Elle a chance to strut her stuff. Then he turns 180 degrees and his eventual creepiness seemingly comes out of nowhere.

Christina Pecce’s Vivienne replaces Elle as the object of Warner’s affections and also pranks Elle into becoming a Playboy bunny for the night, before eventually becoming her ally against Callahan.

Directors Zoe Bradford and Jordie Saucerman know what their customers want – especially in the Ides of August – and they deliver it.

Choreographer Sally Ashton Forrest always infuses her production numbers with energy and enthusiasm, abundant qualities in her young charges.

Sound can be problematic in the Company Theatre; the orchestra pit fronts the stage instead of being below it and that makes the balance between the musicians and the performers a tricky proposition. At times the orchestra, led by Steve Bass, threatens to overwhelm the performers, making it hard .to hear the vocals. There is no credit for sound design.

The Company Theatre has found its niche in the local theater market, blending up-and-coming young amateur talent and more experienced amateurs with a sprinkling of Actor’s Equity players, accompanied by a professional orchestra in a comfortable theater with easy parking.

“Legally Blonde” is fast and funny, a light-hearted, frothy evening at the theater.

The Company Theatre Center for the Performing Arts production of “Legally Blonde.” Music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin. Book by Heather Hach, based on the novel by Amanda Brown and the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film. Directed by Zoe Bradford and Jordie Saucerman. Musical direction by Steve Bass. Choreography by Sally Ashton Forrest. Costume design by Brianna Plummer. Lighting design by Adam Clark. Through August 20. companytheatre.com.

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