THEATER REVIEW by Alec Clayton for OLY ARTS
Musical theater has returned to Olympia with the staging of Legally Blonde by the capital city’s new theater company Broadway Olympia Productions, performing this weekend only in the historic Capitol Theatre.
I attended the first full rehearsal three days before opening night. I won’t criticize technical aspects since it was the first complete run-through with lights, sets and costumes, but I will say the performances by the entire cast was laudable, I loved Jimmy Shields’ choreography, the orchestra was outstanding, the set by Bruce Haasl was lovely, and I didn’t see any bloopers. This mostly youthful troupe – backstage and on stage – is full of talent and bursting with enthusiasm.
Elle Woods (Jessica Furnstahl) is president of her college sorority and, by surface appearance at least, is a shallow blonde beauty. Her boyfriend, Warner Huntington III (Matt Posner), breaks up with her because she’s not serious enough for him as he heads to Harvard Law School. She follows him, hoping to win him back. Elle dresses in pink, carries a dog in her purse, surrounds herself with a Greek Chorus of cheerleaders, and makes friends with a ditzy hairdresser named Paulette (Molly Quinn).
She doesn’t exactly fit in at Harvard Law, but with the help of all-around good guy Emmett Forrest (Henry Talbot Dorest), Elle manages to turn herself around and make some heads spin as she becomes a formidable character.
It’s a sweet, funny and lighthearted romp with an underlying serious intent.
Legally Blonde introduces a lot of new talent to Olympia stages – some not long out of high school and many from out of town. Furnstahl is in the Running Start program at Pierce College. Her previous acting experience has been in high school plays. Yet she commands the Capitol Theatre stage like a seasoned pro. She is expressive, flashes a dazzling smile, dances up a storm, and sings beautifully. This is a play that, despite a large cast and more so than many another musical, is carried on the shoulders of the main character; and Furnstahl shoulders that responsibility with éclat.
Posner, the only Equity actor in the cast, has built an impressive career with many performances at The 5th Avenue and Village Theatre. He stepped into the role of Warner as a late replacement, and even though he has few lines and solos on only one song, he adds multiple dimensions to the character. Seeing him back on South Sound stages is fabulous.
Emmett is the most likeable and down-to-earth character in the play as portrayed by Dorset, whose singing is strong and mellow. There is a naturalness to his acting that is fun to watch.
Also bringing a refreshing naturalness to his acting is Andrew Fry as Professor Callahan. Most recently seen as a cop in the brutal comedy-drama The Pillowman at Tacoma Little Theatre, Fry is a most versatile actor, well cast as Professor Callahan.
The singing and dancing is exuberant. You’ll surely go away humming the title song, and you might even be tempted to go home as try the “Bend and Snap.”
Welcome to Olympia, Broadway Olympia. Or should I say welcome home?
This review appears courtesy The News Tribune.
8 p.m. Aug. 16-19 and 2 p.m. Aug. 18-19
206 East Fifth Ave., Olympia