High-Spirited LEGALLY BLONDE at the Ritz

by Jessica Martin
Elle Woods played by Martha Marie Wasser from Philadelphia in The Ritz Theatre Company's production of LEGALLY BLONDE (THE MUSICAL). (Photo credit: Chris Miller)

Elle Woods played by Martha Marie Wasser from Philadelphia in The Ritz Theatre Company’s production of LEGALLY BLONDE (THE MUSICAL). (Photo credit: Chris Miller)

A soggy Friday evening rain could not dampen the spirits of either the cast or the large audience of LEGALLY BLONDE (THE MUSICAL), the season opener at Haddon Township’s Ritz Theatre. If only we could bottle the energy coming from that theatre!

Ritz newcomer Martha Marie Wasser stars as bubbly, bright and blonde Elle Woods. Elle, a UCLA co-ed and member of Delta Nu sorority, is about to become engaged to Warner Huntington III—or so she and her sorority sisters think as they dance and sing “Omigod You Guys.” Dan Klerman, also making his Ritz debut, is Warner, who, instead of proposing, breaks off with Elle. He tells her that he is transferring to Harvard Law School and she is not serious enough for him. What else can Elle do but follow him and try to enter the same school to show that she can be serious? After hard study and some rather bizarre help from her friends, she makes it. But life among her snobbish Harvard classmates is not easy; her law professor is tough; and Warner has a new girlfriend. Teaching assistant Emmett Forrest (John Bacarro) tries to help Elle with her studies. Elle even considers dyeing her hair, but feisty beautician Paulette Bonafonte (Jenna Bitow, another newcomer) talks her out of it. It’s probably not giving away too much to reveal that Elle eventually displays her skills as a lawyer and wins the man who is right for her.

Director Brian Rivell, who also choreographed the show, can be proud of the talent and professionalism of his cast. Wasser, a New York-trained actress/singer/dancer, is enchanting as Elle throughout all her ups and downs. Klerman as Warner is the kind of cad we love to hate, abetted by Shayna Lorraine Murray as his snooty girlfriend, Vivienne. Bacarro is believable as his exact opposite, “Mr. Nice Guy” Emmett. The other “villain of the piece” is Tim Reilly as the tyrannical (and later lecherous) Professor Callahan. A great audience pleaser is Bitow’s Paulette, who finally finds the man of her dreams in Kyle, a delivery man (Matt Reher, who also plays two other roles). And we must not forget Brutus, a 7-year-old Chihuahua, as Elle’s dog, Bruiser, and George Killian, a 9-year-old English Bulldog, as Paulette’s dog, Rufus. Elle uses her knowledge of law to help Paulette rescue Rufus from her sleazy ex-boyfriend. Brutus and George Killian are therapy dogs, appearing courtesy of Leashes of Love, a Cherry Hill pet therapy organization.

The music in this show, while not particularly memorable, serves as the accompaniment to some of the most energetic dancing you will ever see, including an Irish dance (Paulette loves everything Irish) and one with jumping ropes. The set by W. Kris Clayton and costumes by Kate Tharp Shaffer and Amy Thomason are lovely and colorful.

The show is feather-light and the plot highly improbable, which makes it a perfect traditional musical. It’s fun, enjoyable and great entertainment for a winter’s night.

Book by Heather Hach
Music and Lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin
Directed and Choreographed by Brian Rivell
Vocal Direction by Trevor Pierce
January 10-February 9, 2013
Ritz Theatre Company
915 White Horse Pike
Haddon Township, NJ 08137

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