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Legally Blonde: The Musical Presented By CenterStage Clovis

IN THE July 31 ISSUE

FROM THE 2019 Articles,
andTerrance V. Mc Arthur,
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by Terrance Mc Arthur

In the matter of CenterStage Clovis vs. Legally Blonde: The Musical, both parties came out the winner. An exuberant cast cheerfully brings the story of the 2001 Reese Witherspoon comedy (based on Amanda Brown’s novel) to tuneful life on the Mercedes Edwards Theatre stage. It’s funny, brisk, and there are a few delightful casting surprises.

Elle (Sarah Rosenthal), a sorority president dumped by her boyfriend Warner Huntington III (William MacDonald), who thinks she isn’t serious enough to be marriage material for a future lawyer, decides to follow him to Harvard Law School and win him back. Ridiculed by her law school professor (Darren Tharp) and her ex’s new girlfriend (Madelyn Broach), she finds support from teaching assistant Emmett Forrest (Dakota Simpson), and a beautician (Kay Wilkins). Elle finds that she does have abilities in the legal realm, and her Southern California fashion knowledge comes in handy as she defends an exercise guru (Kelsey Coyne) from a murder rap.

theatre

Elle (Sarah Rosenthal) and Bruiser (Pennie) in the CenterStage Production of “Legally Blonde”

Rosenthal brings a strength to what could be a ditsy Valley Girl, powering through her songs while she keeps a sweet innocence and hope about her. Trusting and golly-cheerful, her triumphs lift the audience.

Simpson lifts his side of the acting weight as a nerdish type who blossoms as a male Eliza Doolittle under Elle’s Henry Higgins-ish fashion tutoring in the cleverly droll “Take It Like a Man” number.

Left to right-Professor Callahan (Darren Tharp), Emmett Forrest (Dakota Simpson), and Elle

Wilkins was lively in two GCP productions of Mamma Mia, and she is terrific as Paulette, the hair stylist whose imagination soars to the sounds of Irish music and the sight of a hunky UPS guy (Isaiah Bankson).

Tharp bullies his way through teaching law classes leading the defense team, somewhere between John Houseman and a slightly sleazy Raymond Burr. He makes “Blood in the Water,” a guide to the lawyer’s need for killer instinct, a comic delight.

Fatima Avila, Ava Tafalla, and Lexie Castellanos as Elle’s Delta Nu sisters/besties become the Greek (sorority) Chorus of her mind. They are delightful, and Tafalla bulldozes her way into your heart—such moves!

MacDonald is good-looking and calculating as he thinks he wants substance over what he perceives as fluff—when there was a definite mind under that fluff. Broach smoothly transitions from a mean girl, determined to treat Elle as an opponent to squash, to a person who sees inner worth where it lies.

Elle (Sarah Rosenthal) and Warner Huntington III (William MacDonald)

Coyne is beyond belief in her energetic role (Have you ever tried singing while you jump rope?), and even intimidates a jail exercise class wearing orange jumpsuits (the new Black?). Michael A. Lipe does multiple-double-duty as Elle’s effusive dad, a jaded admissions screener, an intrusive courtroom reporter, and heaven knows what else.

Camden Johnson is a confrontational mini-feminist who becomes part of Team Elle, acerbic and terse. Bankson struts sexily…WAIT! I have to tell you about Pennie and Victor, two of the breakout stars of the show. Pennie, a Chihuahua, is quiet and still, even when the bed she is on is moved. Then, there’s Victor E. Bulldog III—Yes, the living mascot of the Fresno State Bulldogs makes his stage debut, with a strut that matches Bankson’s. He earns every cheer and ovation he gets!

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Kay Wilkins and Victor E. Bulldog III as Rufus

Scott Hancock’s direction keeps everything moving, and Caleb Wilson’s set design really moves…up, down, around, and sideways. Jessica Massie’s costumes work with the characters, and Peter Van Der Paardt’s orchestra is large and in charge.

Legally Blonde plays through August 3 at the Mercedes Edwards Theatre, 902 5th Street, Clovis. For tickets and more information, go to www.centerstageclovis.com or call (559) 323-8744. For fans of the movie, there aren’t many surprises, except for moments of “I didn’t think they’d be able to do THAT on the stage.” By the way, the Bend and Snap is there…with music!

If you love local theatre, be sure to check out Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. You can also find the podcast on iTunes/Apple Podcasts and Google Play, and also on podbean.

Check out more theatre reviews & other local entertainment articles in our Arts & Entertainment section.

Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a California-born, Valley-raised librarian/entertainer/writer. He is a librarian with Fresno County Public Library.

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