by Beki Pineda
LEGALLY BLONDE – Book by Heather Hoch; Music and Lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Neil Benjamin; Directed by Devyn Machado. Produced by Fearless Theatre (presented at The Bakery, 2132 Market, Denver) through January 19. Tickets available at fearless-theatre.ticketleap.com.
Fearless Theatre is indeed fearless. They are willing to take on new scripts – YOUNG VOLCANOS and the recent MOSQUE – as well as add a “fearless” tag to tried and true classics. They have done the standard edgy shows – SPRING AWAKENING, RENT, BENT – and even brought their brand to ROMEO AND JULIET and JULIUS CAESAR. But LEGALLY BLONDE at the Bakery??? Despite misgivings, they did it!! What Fearless proves in this current production is that if you have a powerful story to tell – even if it’s wrapped in pink fluff – you don’t need all the trappings.
The Bakery – for those of you who haven’t been there – is basically an unconverted warehouse that’s maybe 1500 square feet. Brick walls, concrete floors, folding chairs, tiny stage with no room for sets generally . . . . a basic hole in the wall space used since its inception by start up theatre groups. I’ve been attending shows there for nearly a year and have become more and more impressed by their creativity in solving the problems of a production in this space. In LEGALLY BLONDE, a single hair drier chair becomes a beauty salon; a group of four benches becomes both a classroom and a courtroom; a single table becomes a restaurant.
But the story gets told and the music gets sung. We are all as proud of Elle’s accomplishments as if she were surrounded by pretty furniture and matching costumes. It is the story that is at the heart of the production – actually, all of their productions. And that is their gift to their audiences. “We tell the story.”
Also at the heart of this particular story is Emma Maxfield as the irrepressible Elle. The part is written to present a seemingly shallow girl on a desperate journey to win back the man we all know is not worthy of her. But Elle is not shallow – she simply knows what she likes and is secure in the knowledge that her taste is impeccable. It may take her three tries but she gets into Harvard Law School, for Pete’s sake. It may take her a little while to recognize the much better man right in front of her, but she allows their friendship to grow before there’s any thought of romance . . . a much better way to go. She has a quick and facile mind that recognizes the truths in human character and has room for compassion and friendship. Plus we all learned to do the “bend and snap” although I’m afraid if I tried to bend these old bones, they really would snap. Emma brings a beautiful singing voice and soul to her portrayal of Elle. She has energy, concentration (something you need when your audience is three feet away) and brilliant acting skills which bring Elle to life without disguising Emma’s own sweet personality. You want to be friends with this girl.
She is supported by a cast of dozens – most notably Andrew Alber as her befuddled but cute fellow student, Emmett; Katie Burdette as Vivienne, her rival; Nick Marshall as Warner, her truly shallow boyfriend; and Brian Trampler as the devious Professor Callahan. Jordan Griffiths gave an energetic performance as the TV exercise guru and Hannah Whitehead excelled as her beauty salon friend who has a thing for UPS drivers. Roll in twelve other actors intent on telling the story and you’ve got a show!
Keep an eye on little Fearless Theatre. There are only about thirty seats in the space; it will soon be standing room only.
A WOW factor of 8.5!!