I may be one of the few people who have never seen the original movie, Legally Blonde, so I had only some small inkling of what to expect when the curtain rose last night on the Actors Guild of Parkersburg’s production of Legally Blonde: The Musical. I knew it was about a ditzy blonde girl from California named Elle Woods who gets in to Harvard Law School to follow her ex-boyfriend and somehow makes good. And I knew she’d wear a lot of pink. But that was about it. Oh, and that she has a Chihuahua name Bruiser. But I’ve seen at least my share of musical comedies in my time, so I expected she’d realize something about herself, get over her cad of a boyfriend, and fall in love with someone who deserves her. And I was right.
But what I certainly was not expecting was someone on the local stage with a voice and presence like Tasha Spencer’s. Ms. Spencer, who plays Elle Woods, had the audience in thrall from the moment she stepped on the stage. To say she has a set of pipes is to make a gross understatement. She hit all the notes, and I mean that in every sense of the word. Not to get too serious about a musical that’s designed not to be taken too seriously, but Ms. Spencer’s Elle was nuanced and layered. Her metamorphosis from a vacuous, albeit beautiful and nice, bimbo to a person of substance who acknowledges not only her own intelligence but also the worthiness of that attribute is a sight to behold. And even before this transformation, we’re rooting for Elle because she really is nice and thoughtful of those around her. And that attitude is made all the more evident by the outstanding performance of Ms. Spencer. Though the cast is large and the play is, in some ways, an ensemble, it really revolves around Elle Woods and would fall apart without a powerful performer in that part. Director R. J. Lowe hit a homerun when he cast her in the role.
Another terrific performance was put on by Cole Mazaher in the role of Emmett Forrest, the teaching assistant to the dastardly Professor Callahan, who is made delightfully evil by Ronnie Talbott. It’s also evident pretty early on that he’s going to be the guy who deserves Elle. And their duets sparkle. It’s like their voices and personas were made to play together. Mazaher is the perfect counterpoint to Carter Rice’s vapid Warner Huntington III, Elle’s ex-boyfriend. Rice does a terrific job of capturing the shallow nature of a man who could break up with his longtime girlfriend over Champagne at a fancy restaurant the night before he leaves for Harvard.
Two other performers who threatened to steal the show were Heather Hepburn as Paulette and Brittani Hill as Brooke Wyndham. Ms. Hepburn turned in a comedic performance for the ages. She is magnetic and talented and is a truly gifted physical comedian. And to top it off, she can really sing. And Ms. Hill’s ability to dance, jump rope, and yet belt out a tune while never missing a note was nothing short of amazing.
I could go on and on praising every single person in the show, even the bit parts. And another whole review could be written about the technical aspects of the show, from a creative multi-layered set that served well as many settings to truly inspired costume work. But all this stuff means so much less without a tremendous Elle Woods, and Tasha Spencer certainly gave us that. I really can’t say enough about just how high quality a performance she gave. It was on a level one would expect from professional theater. I applaud you Ms. Spencer!
So, as you can guess, I strongly recommend this show. But you better get your tickets quickly! I know opening night is sold out and I wouldn’t be surprised if the rest of the run will be sold out soon if it isn’t already. And the people who hold those tickets are truly in for a treat.