By Staff Writer Samantha Wahl.
This weekend, the UMass Dartmouth Theater Company brought audiences to Malibu, a hair salon, and Harvard University. Under the direction of Rose Racine and Seraphina Bell, with musical coordination by Sara Alfaro, they put on a musical with an incredibly challenging score and intensive choreography. And what’s more? They looked and sounded fabulous doing it.
It calls to mind a line from a certain blonde ingenue: “What, like it’s hard?”
Yes, this week the UMassD Theatre Company’s production of Legally Blonde opened. Based on the 2001 film of the same name, Blonde follows sorority girl Elle Woods as she travels on an unlikely journey to Harvard Law School. She thinks she’s going there to win over a man; however, as she grows and develops her self-confidence, Elle comes into her own as a bright young law student and finds a sense of independence and identity outside of her looks.
In the Theatre Company’s production, Elle Woods was portrayed by UMassD junior Allyson Andrade. Andrade, who also played the lead in last year’s production of Heathers, is a wonder to behold onstage: her voice stays smooth and full through even the longest and most complicated notes. She portrays Elle’s whimsy, flounce, earnestness and intelligence in equal measure, resulting in a solid, charming performance.
In Blonde, Andrade cements herself as UMassD’s very own triple-threat powerhouse.
Opposite Andrade in the role of Elle’s friend and love interest Emmett Forrest is sophomore Tyler Rebello. Rebello is a fixture of UMassD theater, having appeared to great acclaim as Drew in Rock of Ages, Jack in Into the Woods, and JD in Heathers. In stark contrast to his Heathers character,+++++ Rebello’s Emmett is warm, winsome, and genuine. Rebello tells The Torch that Emmett Forrest has always been one of his dream roles:
“I’ve always wanted to play the role, and I love it so much. I saw it at Dartmouth High when I was a [high school] sophomore and fell in love with the character. I’ve progressed so much as a person [while working on Blonde] because of how great Emmett is, and how driven he is with everything he does. It’s been the greatest.”
This enthusiasm for the show is mirrored by other cast and crew members, and it shows: in Racine, Bell, and Alfaro’s hands, Legally Blonde is electric. Standout performances include: Dennis Fox as the conniving Professor Callahan, who gives a jazzy, sassy rendition of “Blood in the Water”; TCo Vice President Josie Woolson, unforgettable as the lovable, downtrodden Paulette Bonafonte; Cheyanne Patterson in a brilliantly-sung turn as Elle’s enemy-turned-friend Vivian Kensington; and Lyndon Davis, who delivers immaculate comedic timing in the role of Warner Huntington III, Elle’s first love. Director Rose Racine declares that watching Davis in his element is like “watching a young Neil Patrick Harris”.
The Legally Blonde score is packed with challenging musical numbers. From “Whipped into Shape”, which requires actors to jump-rope while singing, to Elle’s marching-band-style “personal essay” for Harvard, to the Irish step-dance choreography of Paulette’s number “Ireland”, the show never fails to deliver in the theatrics department. The cast conquers all these challenges with gusto, and Legally Blonde sparkles as brightly as its protagonist’s bright pink outfits.