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Review: Musical romantic comedy impresses

Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune

Elle Woods (Cecilia Cantu), left,  applies the knowledge she has learned in law school to gain custody of Paulette’s (Jenna Valencia) dog while fellow student/friend Emmett (Thorn Castellon) looks on during the final dress rehearsal of “Legally Blonde: The Musical” presented by the Madera South Theatre Company. The show opened Thursday evening and runs through next week.


Madera South Theatre Company’s production of “Legally Blonde The Musical” kicked off Thursday with peppy song and dance by Delta Nu sisters, and their energy never seemed to fade for the next two and half hours.


That’s fortunate as the ambitious romantic comedy takes on as much as protagonist Elle Woods (Cecilia Cantu), a pampered UCLA sorority queen who storms Harvard Law School to pursue her ex-boyfriend Warner Huntington (Diego Barba).


Well chosen for her lead role, Cantu handles it capably with a tireless and winsome performance. Her imaginary “Greek chorus” of Delta Nu friends likewise tie the musical together with their steady and strong showmanship.


Olivia Leach, who plays fitness instructor Brooke Taylor-Windham and a chorus member, exhibited bold poise and is worth keeping an eye on in future theater roles. Madison Stone (Harvard student Vivienne Kensington) and Rick Dorris (Harvard Professor Callahan) acted convincingly and well, and Thorn Castellon (Harvard student Emmett Forrest) turned out to be a crowd favorite on opening night.


Though it should be no shock with MSTC, the exceptional and versatile scenery practically deserves to be listed on the cast of characters itself as one of the leads. It added so much to the play. The repeated presence of two live dogs — tricky to manage for live shows — impressed me. 
But the most startling standout of the show would be Jenna Valencia, who portrays beautician Paulette Bonafonté. Jenna revealed herself to be equally adept in comedic speech and song, with a voice able to power through occasional sound amplification issues.


On opening night, music infrequently overpowered the vocals, especially for attendees sitting farther from the stage. This understandable problem happened mostly with secondary roles rather than the lead characters, and hopefully will not be an issue if you attend this weekend or next week.
Those familiar with the 2001 movie upon which the musical was adapted will not be surprised that the humor can be, like that of the film, PG-13 and risqué. The story of both versions uses comical stereotypes liberally before somewhat subverting them.


If ribald comedy bothers you, I’d say pass on this play. But otherwise get a ticket for a dynamic show that shouldn’t leave you disappointed.


Shows will be 7 p.m. tonight as well as Wednesday through Saturday. A 2 p.m. matinee performance is planned for today. Tickets are $12 reserved seating, $10 adults, and will be available at the door. Madera South High School is at 705 W. Pecan Ave.


For information, call  675-4450 or 706-4954.


Trivia footnote thanks to Wikipedia: The movie “Legally Blonde” was based on a novel of the same name about the author Amanda Brown’s experiences at Stanford Law School.