THE HILLBARN THEATRE IN SAN MATEO CELEBRATES 75 YEARS IN THE BAY AREA WITH THE “PINKEST” OF MUSICALS
OH MY GOD! LEGALLY BLONDE THE MUSICAL IS ADORABLE FUN AND “BEING TRUE TO YOURSELF NEVER GOES OUT OF STYLE”
The blonde Elle Woods and her dog Bruiser cheerfully opens the 75th season of Hillbarn Theatre in Foster City, Ca. LEGALLY BLONDE the musical is filled with Valley girls and bubblegum songs, it’s a guilty-pleasure production that, under the bleach-blonde wigs and explosion of pink, playfully reminds audiences that “being true to yourself” never goes out of style. The 2001 film starring Reese Witherspoon has been adapted for the stage, infused with music and dance, with book by Heather Hach and music as pop-catchy as ever by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin. Hillbarn Theatre's production of LEGALLY BLONDE the Musical is exceptional and a lot of fun. From the moment the talented cast enters the stage, the audience is constantly entertained, laughing, and having fun.
Elle Woods is a UCLA Delta Nu sorority girl-turned Harvard Law student. Elle, played by Courtney Hatcher, is a born comedian, delivering droll facial expressions and playing up the airhead voice, all while delivering such legalized zingers as “all masturbatory sperm not seeking an egg could be called reckless abandonment.” Director Dan Demers has a clever way to open the show on a simple double deck set to show off his chorus of sorority girls popping with energy from their sorority windows as they bounce into "Ohmigod You Guys,' one of the shows most recognized numbers. The female chorus sounds amazing together and when the remarkable Courtney Hatcher enters, she blends perfectly with them. Hatcher is phenomenal as Elle with her earnest and heartfelt portrayal of the character. She does an incredible job of making the audience care, feel, and root for her to succeed. Hatcher has a stunningly beautiful voice - her solo “So Much Better” was goosebump-inducing and incredibly powerful. She is the definition of a triple threat - excellently demonstrating her acting, singing, and dancing skills throughout the two and a half hour show.
Justin Travis Buchs is geeky adorable as Emmett Forrest, who the audience cannot help but like. He has great stage presence, talented acting, and solid singing voice. The comedic and endearing interactions between Hatcher and Buchs in “Chip on My Shoulder” and “Take It Like a Man” are enough reasons to see the show, but the pair also sings beautifully together especially in the shows title number. The blending of their voices is soothing and the emotions that go into their song "Legally Blonde" makes it a stand out as one of the best numbers in this production.
Jocelyn Pickett makes the perfect Vivienne Kensington - from her snobbish ways at the beginning, she grows into a likeable character by the end, which makes her character trajectory one to watch. She has a fantastic voice that sadly the audience does not get to hear a lot of until one of the final numbers, "Legally Blonde Remix," but it is definitely worth the wait to hear her sing and hit that glorious high note with so much sass and conviction!
Another stand out performer in the show is Gennine Harrington as Paulette Bonafonte. Just like Hatcher and Buchs, she is a triple threat as well, with a soulful singing voice, great acting, perfect comedic timing, and a strong stage presence. Harrington brings Paulette flawlessly to life - filled with heart, comedy, and a little crazy that just makes the character that much more likeable. Her scenes with Kyle, played by the alluring Joe Murphy, brings enormous awe and charm in the show
Elana Ron, who is a joy to watch on stage, plays the feminist law student Enid. The quirky awkwardness that she brings to the character makes her unforgettable. Ron also does a great job of setting her character apart by not letting her get mistaken for one of the Delta Nu sorority girls and is remarkable at staying in character when the main focus is not on Enid. She does little things during those moments that make her memorable.
Brad Satterwhite does a good job of playing the pompous Warner Huntington III, just as Ray D’Ambrosio does at being the villain of sorts Professor Callahan. Noelani Neal not only has the body for her fitness instructor role of Brooke Wyndham, she is sassy and fun to watch on stage. Brigette Losey, Catrina Manahan, and Catherine Rieflin play Elle's sorority sisters Margot, Pilar, and Serena respectively. Watching the three friends throughout the show, who appear at times in Elle's head as part of a Greek chorus, it is apparent that all three have fun with their roles while they dance, sing, and slay during the show. Their number “Bend and Snap” with Elle’s Harvard BFF Paulette is a winner and a show stopping number applauded by the sold out opening weekend audience.
LEGALLY BLONDE the Musical is very heavy with large chorus numbers and this production does a great job with all of them. The harmonies during the songs and impressive dance movements as a group are spectacular that the ensemble deserves to be recognized. Lizzie Moss, doubling as the geeky Kate and conniving Chutney, is exemplary in her portrayal of these two featured characters. Noah Boger, Jon Schneider, and Zach Smallman deliver smooth moves and excellent dancing as featured ensemble. Smallman is a young actor to look out for he is very talented and shines in the ensemble. Corey Greer and Efrain Lazcana-Ibarra were hysterical in their song “Gay or European” and Christine Baker, Corrie Farbstein, Sarah Hammond, Alyssa Leonard, Jennifer Martinelli, Jessica Maxey, Lauren Meyer, and Lucie Sudmeier deliver fabulous performances in their various roles in the show.
This production craft team is exceptional with the creative use of this small barn-like theatre. Local favorite Scenic Designer Kuo-Hao Lo keeps the setting simple and lets the actors shine and bring UCLA, Harvard, and the Beauty shop to life. Director Dan Demers and choreographer Jim Ambler utilized the double decker set and let the players maximize the design space. In “What You Want” they bring in a touch of marching band and a full-sized half time event to get Elle into Harvard. With singing and dancing happening all around them, there is never a dull moment. The costumes are influenced by various shades of pink and are proudly designed by Kat Pruyn. She brings a pretty 90s-inspired look to the UCLA sorority girls and that preppy Ivy League feel to the Harvard characters. The music direction under Rick Reynolds is stunning as the cast is always on pitch and the small yet splendid backstage orchestra brings so much energy that each note played was felt by the audience. The sound by Dylan Chavez is on cue and the lighting design by Don Coluzzi is simple with the scrim backdrop setting the fun mood of the show.
Huge shout out goes to the two scene-stealing pets in the show Remy and Wilbur, on loan (but in search of a home) from the local Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA. With an underlying message about the importance of overcoming stereotypes, “LEGALLY BLONDE” isn’t a complete no-brainer, but is overall a lighthearted musical intended to put a spring in your step and a smile on your face. Major snaps to Hillbarn Theatre for a fabulous production - a perfect way to open and celebrate 75 years of theatre magic in the Bay Area.
The Hillbarn Theatre Celebrates 75 years
Legally Blonde The Musical
Book by Heather Hach and by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin
Directed by Dan Demers
Vocal and Musical Direction/Conducting by Rick Reynolds
Choreography by James Ambler
Aug 25, 2016 thru Sep 18, 2016
1285 East Hillsdale Blvd.
Foster City, CA 94404
Two Hours 30 minutes with a 15 min intermission
Photos by Mark Kitaoka
The two pets in the show are looking for new homes. Elle’s Wilbur’s a star! The adorable, 12-year-old Chihuahua plays Bruiser Woods in the Hillbarn Theatre production of Legally Blonde The Musical. For the 6 weeks, the theater community has banded together to foster Wilbur and help him find his forever family through their #findbruiserahome campaign. Courtney Hatcher* (as Elle Woods) meets her Bruiser Woods (PHS/SPCA's Wilbur) for the first time at the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA to start the #findbruiserahome campaign during Hillbarn Theatre’s production of “Legally Blonde.”PHS/SPCA’s -- Wilbur strikes a pose in the PHS/SPCA Indoor Dog Park. Contact https://www.peninsulahumanesociety.org/ to follow Remy and Wilbur, on loan (but in search of a home) contact the Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA