‘Legally Blonde’ cast brings musical to life

OMG! CrazyLake Acting Company director Christine Schaefer admits she took on an ambitious project, bringing the Broadway musical version of the hit film comedy “Legally Blonde” to the stage of Greenfield’s Ricks Centre; but she and a talented cast and crew pulled it off.

The show, with a lot of singing and a surprising amount of dancing, follows Delta Nu sorority girl Elle Woods (Payton Cole, in the role made famous by Reese Witherspoon) from UCLA to Harvard Law School as she pursues the boyfriend who just dumped her, Warner (Harrison Kern), but instead finds her purpose as she sheds her stereotypical naivete without losing her sunny spirit or golden hairdo.

Cole, who practically grew up on stage as a KidsPlay actor and local high school thespian (and is coincidentally an actual law student), is outstanding. She makes Elle easy to root for and to feel for when heartbreak threatens, and she expertly maintains the character’s endless optimism. Even in her ditziest moments, you can always tell there’s a brain under those brilliant yellow curls.

Kern is great as the more-shallow Warner, and Erin Hays shines as Warner’s snooty new love interest, Vivienne, whose character grows to break out of her stereotypical niche.

The talented Patrick Gawrys-Strand works his subtle magic in the role of Emmett, the poor graduate assistant who helps Elle become the serious student she needs — and eventually wants — to be.

CrazyLake veteran Corey Yeaman easily takes charge as shark-like law professor Callahan. Mt. Vernon choir director Leigh Anderson shows her triple-threat song/dance/acting skills as Brooke Wyndham, the murder trial defendant whom Callahan and his students (including Elle) must defend.

The role that steals the show, though (aside from the canine actors as “Bruiser” and “Rufus”), is Amy Studabaker as Paulette, the townie hairdresser and instant true friend who helps (and is helped by) Elle. But in a way, Studabaker doesn’t so much steal the show as own it as the show’s choreographer. Her full-stage coordinated routines are exciting and award-worthy, especially in the Irish dance break.

I must add a collective salute to the several Delta Nu Girls/Greek chorus for keeping up the energy and flow of the show (several local young men ably round out the cast).

Frances Hull delivers a nice turn as the trial judge. And kudos to Trever Brown for playing the role of hot UPS man Kyle for all it is worth.

But don’t go to this show just to see your friends and neighbors on stage; this spectacle is nonstop fun, with plenty of laughs and a lot of heart. All the charm of the hit movie is there, brought out in song.

Additional honors are due to Studabaker and Dennis Cole for their imaginative set design. Schaefer said the small backstage area at the theater was a challenge, so they sneaked in some on-stage storage, but you can hardly tell. Effective lighting and some quick-change walls effectively set up the scenes without distractions.

“Legally Blonde” plays through Sunday at the H.J. Ricks Centre for the Arts, 122 E. Main St., Greenfield. See CrazyLake.com or the company’s Facebook page for information and tickets.