I have taken about six deep breaths and exasperatingly let them out before starting to type this review. Why, you might ask? Well, because I really wanted to love this show. I really enjoy this theatre, and for the most part have enjoyed shows I’ve seen there. I also love a few of the leads, and had high expectations for this show. Perhaps they were too high, because I was nothing but disappointed by this show.
Ok, there were a few high points. First, the cast as a whole sounded great. The vocals were on point, especially the voice of Kristin Burch, who played Elle, the voice of Nicholas Tarabini, who played Warner, and the voice of Brynne Geiszler who played Vivienne. The chorus was spot on as well, anchored by the voices of Sarah Russell as Pilar, Tatum Ludlum as Serena and Krista Johnson as Margot.
Second, some of the acting was done quite well. I really enjoyed Mr. Tarabini’s performance as Elle’s ex-boyfriend/classmate at Harvard. He is the antagonist of the show, his actions being what drive the story, and Mr. Tarabini did not disappoint. I saw Mr. Tarabini in SecondStory Rep’s Next to Normal and was thrilled to see that he was cast in this show. However, his talent was truly wasted in the role of Warner, and he really should have been Emmett, but we’ll get to that. Again, the main trio of sorority girls, Ms. Russell, Ms. Ludlum and Ms. Johnson were all very believable in their characters. One chorus member, Devon Allen, who played Nikos and various ensemble parts was the star of the show! He stole every scene he was in, and had the best bend and snap on the stage! I give a huge Bravo to these fine performers. And that is where the compliments end!
The main failure of this show was the concept. Director Matt Wolfe missed the mark so badly it actually physically hurt to sit through this show! He set it in the 80s! The friggin 80s! You can’t set Legally Blonde in the 80s because there are so many references that are so key to the 90s, and are necessary to the story! The writer in me was seething because of all the line and lyric changes that were made to make this stupid concept ‘work’. And what killed me was they didn’t remove all the references to the 90s. They left in lines like “Aren’t there girls going wild somewhere without you?” Newsflash, that is a 90s reference! Or, “I don’t speak MTV”. That’s a 90s reference, because MTV was still so new in the early 80s, no one spoke it yet! It was so unbelievably irritating.
And, to make matters a million times worse, let’s talk about the epic failure that were the costumes of this show! I mean…I don’t know who Jocelyn Fowler is, but there was not an outfit on that stage that fit well or made sense! Poor Mr. Tarabini had to look like some Don Johnson reject from Miami Vice. Paulette’s clothes looked like something a bad Madonna impersonator threw out because they were too tacky, and the sorority girls (I use the term loosely because half of them were young girls and the others looked old enough to be house mothers), were in an Omega Moo color schemed legging/tunic getup that wasn’t flattering on any of them! And the poor UPS Guy, Kyle, never had a chance in the awful outfit he was forced to wear, not to mention the Irishman of Paulette’s dream coming out dressed like an Outlander extra, complete with a Scottish hat with a red pom on the top of it. Not cute. Not appropriate. And most importantly, NOT CORRECT!
But the worst part for me was the direction of Elle. I’ve seen Ms. Burch in other productions at other theatres and she is talented as hell, so imagine my surprise when I watched her play Elle as a bitchy, unlikable, know-it-all from the get go! The beauty of the character of Elle is that she’s likable! She’s sweet, and beautiful, and has no idea that she has more to offer than those two qualities. The whole effing point of this show is that Elle takes a journey to understanding that she’s smart! She’s got more to offer than just her looks, and has to, let me repeat that: has to, figure that out on her journey. But from the first scene in the dress shop where Elle is schooling the sales girl, to Elle dealing with Vivienne and Professor Callahan, all I saw was smart Elle who had already figured it all out. I wasn’t invested at all. I didn’t care if she got what she deserved. And my guess is this is how Ms. Burch was directed to play Elle. Either way, it was not fun to watch.
And as if completely missing the mark on who Elle is wasn’t bad enough, the casting of this show made no sense to me based on the acting and singing skills I saw on that stage. Mr. Tarabini should have been Emmett, as I said, because he sang and acted rings around Tadd Morgan who was cast as Emmett. Mr. Morgan was the weakest one on the stage. He and Ms. Burch had zero chemistry, he messed up lines left, ride and sideways, and sang at her and not to her, and it was miserable to watch.
As I said, I was really upset because I really wanted to like this show, but Mr. Wolfe’s concept was so bad that I literally hated this production. Please, anyone reading this who wants to direct a production of Legally Blonde, leave it in the 90s where it belongs! Don’t change lines. Don’t change lyrics. Don’t mess with the project! If you want to do an 80s show, do the friggin Wedding Singer!
The show does play for two more weekends, but I wouldn’t bother if I were you. If I had it to do all over again, I’d have left at intermission and saved myself the agony.
I’m a fan of SecondStory Rep, and have high hopes for future productions, and will definitely be back. Everyone slips now and again, and this was a major slip, in my opinion. But it won’t keep me from seeing shows in the future. Unless, of course, I see that Mr. Wolfe is the director, then I might skip it.
Ciao for now,