Millersville University’s All Campus Musical Organization (ACMO) presented their 2013 spring musical, “Legally Blonde: The Musical,” on April 4-7 in the Clair Performance Hall in the Winter Visual and Performing Arts Center.
The original Broadway version of this musical ran on Broadway for a year and was nominated for seven Tony Awards. It is based on the novel by Amanda Brown and, more famously, the film starring Reese Witherspoon. With its fun, upbeat soundtrack and light-hearted story, the musical seemed like the perfect production for Millersville’s student-run musical theater organization to put on.
The musical opens with Elle Woods, the perky, ditsy Delta Nu sorority president at UCLA, looking for the perfect dress for her date with her boyfriend Warner. She’s convinced that Warner is about to propose to her, but instead, he dumps her and tells her that he needs a girlfriend who is “less of a Marilyn, more of a Jackie.” Ever the optimist and firm believer of love, Elle ditches her sorority girl ways, hits the books, passes her LSATs, and follows Warner to Harvard Law School. Even though she is ridiculed by her snobby fellow classmates (including Warner’s current girlfriend Vivienne) for her Valley girl ways and obsession with the color pink, Elle is determined to win back her ex and make a name for herself as a lawyer while staying true to herself.
This production was directed by ACMO president Seth Sponhouse, who obviously put a lot a lot of time into this production and did a fantastic job bringing out the best of his cast and crew. The dance numbers, choreographed by Ashley Harmon, were full of pep and spirit, and the ensemble members always showed an abundance of energy and talent and were well-in-sync with each other. It can be difficult to sing and dance well at the same time (during the song “Whipped into Shape” they were even singing while jumping rope), but the ensemble made it all look effortless. The dance numbers featuring the Greek Chorus, led by Serena (Marisa Leo), Pilar (Blessing Robinson) and Margot (Amy Ward), were especially enjoyable, as the girls were vivacious, engaging with both each other and the audience and were often very funny. Dance numbers such as “Oh My God You Guys!”, “What You Want!”, “Whipped into Shape”, and “Bend and Snap” were some of the highlights of the show.
Other details with the sets and costumes were also well-executed. Some of the sets like Elle’s room at Harvard and the Hair Affair Salon were very bright and colorful, with pops of pinks, blues, and purples, and rows of wooden benches and seats provided the sets for the Harvard lecture hall and court house. As for the costumes, the girls in the Greek Chorus each had their own assortment of pants, tops and dresses, but their outfits were all-white, which made them look like an actual sorority. Of course, Elle had her share of pink dresses and garments, including a hot pink bunny costume, which especially made her stick out among her more conservatively-dressed Harvard peers.
The cast of this production was especially strong, and there were plenty of stand-out performances in the show. Elle was played by Kelly Milligan, who successfully carried the musical with heart, grace, and charm. She hit all of her jokes, songs, and dance moves spot-on and was a joy to watch and listen to. She also had great chemistry with both Jeremy Hammer, who played Warner, and Joey Bertoni, who played Emmett. Bertoni was likeably awkward as Professor Callahan’s teaching assistant, and his character even pushes Elle to take her
Harvard studies more seriously. Paul Drellock-Hughes played Professor Callahan, Elle’s Harvard Law professor, as a ruthless, snarky and seasoned lawyer who knows the ins and outs of the business, and his song “Blood in the Water” was another highlight of the musical. Christine Furey was great comic relief as Paulette, a hairdresser and Elle’s friend who has had bad luck finding a good man. Her exaggerated facial expressions and wacky line delivery made for some hilarious moments in the show, and watching her sing “Ireland” and perform “Bend and Snap” was very entertaining. Playing the part of Elle’s four-legged sidekick Bruiser was Communication and Theatre professor Victor Capecce’s cute miniature dachshund, Mitzi. She only appeared in a few scenes, but she was very calm and well-behaved even when there was madness going on onstage.
With the exception of a few issues with mic quality, “Legally Blonde: The Musical” was a very enjoyable and well-done production. The music and dance numbers were lively and fun to watch, the humor was amazing, and the cast and ensembles were very impressive, both with singing and acting. It was definitely a colorful and stellar show for ACMO’s first musical production in the VPAC.