When Heather Hach wrote the libretto for the 2007 musical "Legally Blonde,” based on the Amanda Brown novel of the same name and the film of the same name (both 3001), she may have had dreams of it earning nominations and awards.

By Trish Morgan
For the News Tribune
When Heather Hach wrote the libretto for the 2007 musical "Legally Blonde,” based on the Amanda Brown novel of the same name and the film of the same name (both 3001), she may have had dreams of it earning nominations and awards. 
After all, when we writers spill our guts out on a story, a book or a screenplay, all we want is for someone out there to read it and feel something...to come away with getting to know the characters and caring about what happens to them in the course of watching a movie or a play, or reading a book.
"Legally Blonde The Musical" was subsequently nominated for a Tony award for Best Book of a Musical and a Drama Desk award for Outstanding Musical.
In this case locally, it was experiencing a musical of "Legally Blonde"! Yes, a musical! Cumberland Theatre is well known for bringing musicals to the stage for us to experience when so many of us have seen the films. I must have seen the film "Legally Blonde" with Reese Witherspoon over 50 times since 2001 - yes, I am one of THOSE people who loves to watch a great film over and over. So, when I was invited to come review this production, I did not hesitate to say yes at all.
This production follows the transformation of Elle Woods as she tackles stereotypes and scandal in pursuit of her dreams. Action-packed and exploding with memorable songs and dynamic dances, this musical is so much fun and it should be illegal! - per the synopsis of the show.
Exceptionally directed by Kimberli Rowley, each of the actors portrayed these lovable characters (well, mostly lovable) that I remembered so well with great characterization and perfection. The most interesting thing about attending a musical where you are already quite familiar with the characters in the film is that you know what to expect as far as the story goes.
But, when you add extraordinary musical direction and sound engineering by Chris McCabe, absolutely spectacular choreography by Danny Durr and his assistant choreographer MacKenzie Cutcliffe, and gifted, multi-talented dancers, designers, managers, operators, dance captains and dog caretakers - Kimberli got the perfect formula together for this show down pat!
Made possible by generous sponsorship by Dawn's Family Practice and Sam and Pam Griffith, these full houses of patrons are able to experience the extreme cuteness of both onstage canine actors - "Bruiser,” played by Lilly, and "Rufus,” played by Frank the Tank. My apologies in advance to the human actors for my "Top Billing" of these doggies - for who can resist their charms and Tony Award-winning performances!! No one, I tell you! As soon as these dogs came on to the stage as their characters, the audience was won over based on the "oohs and ahhhs" through the theatre. Bravo Lilly and Frank the Tank! ENCORE ENCORE!!
The theme throughout the musical started at the very beginning with the Delta Nu sorority girls and Elle's best friends, and their "Omigod You Guys.” I found these actors to be so stereotypically "cheerleader-y" and peppy and preppy -  portraying their roles perfectly from beginning to end. Beautiful, hilarious, over the top funny and full of never-ending energy! Omigod girls and guys - loved you so much. Dara Orland (Serena), Alexandria Garcia (Margo), and Brianna Lopez (Pilar) and Company - you had me from the first omigod!
Mackenzie Newbury (Elle Woods) had the lead role, and the director chose well. Mackenzie was Elle - through and through. She loved, she lost, she recovered and moved mountains, and in the end, discovered she was her own enough. With premium vocals and a full portfolio of successful leading roles under her belt, she was boss. She led the cast to one of the best musical comedies at Cumberland Theatre I have ever seen!
Rhett Wolford (Emmett Forrest) -  I have waited years to see Rhett on stage taking on a meaty role like this one! Mostly, Rhett is behind the scenes building the most exquisite sets for the theatre's productions. But, with great anticipation, it was all worth it. He mastered difficult vocals with ease and confidence, and held his own with Mackenzie's Elle. Rhett - as awesome as you are with well designed and created sets, you know you can command a major role. Do that. More. Please. Ticket price is irrelevant.
Kristina Huegel (Vivian Kensington) - always worth seeing on stage! She's so great at everything - song and dance, energy, vitality and authenticity of her characters, and she is ALWAYS noticed. Always. You were the perfect Vivian.
Poor Warner Huntington III (new to Cumberland Theatre, played by Bryan Austermann). Bryan unfortunately had to take on the poor sapp role that everyone wants to hate. But, Bryan, you had great stage presence, and your voice is to die for. Sure, you were charming at first as I knew you would be, but darn it, a cad you would soon become. The script took you there, but you ran with the cad-ness and made it work. Poor Warner. He just couldn't measure up to Elle's greatness, though.
In a cast as large as this, and the limited space for published theatre reviews, it is challenging to choose highlighted actors in a tremendous production such as this. I would be remiss, though, to not mention a few who just stood out just a little among a stage full of seasoned actors - both local and out of town. How to choose? Well, I choose by careful consideration of those who reached me deeply in some ways. Those with marvelous acting chops, those with fantastic range and vocal skills, those with memorable performances. Somehow, it has to be done, and in addition to those mentioned above, these are those:
Doing double-duty as director and taking on the role of Elle's new best friend at the salon Paulette, Kimberli belted out some phenomenal notes in her solo performances that took the audience to the place of chills and goosebumps. Those who read my reviews know I am a huge fan of all things Kimberli, and she never disappoints. Ever.
Lorenzo Ballesteros (Padamadan/Nikos) was a shining star when he hit the stage!  This was the first time I have ever seen him on stage, and he rocked his two roles. Loved his sparkle. Do more shows, Lorenzo. Please.
Shawn Cox (the dazzling star attorney, yet, creepy Professor Callahan who never had a chance with the Woods, Elle) owned the stage. His vocals - WOW! And, he ain't too shabby in the acting realm either. Just too bad he had to be a cad like that Warner Huntington III. I'd love for him to do more CT shows, too!
Courtney Feiman is always a favorite of mine on stage, and she played two roles, too (Kate and Chutney Wyndham). She's authentic on stage, and delivers lines and characters with finesse and believability. She's dedicated to her craft, and it shows!
I recently saw Brendon McCabe (who plays Aaron in this production) at Embassy Theatre in "The Rocky Horror Show,” and I am so impressed with the growth and maturity in his performances. He has been both on stage and behind stage for years, but he has come to life and shown so much improvement, and taken on more challenging roles. He will soon be adding major roles to his repertoire in the new future, I just know it…and I will be there to watch this young man grow in the theatre world.
Other supporting role standouts who impressed me with their knowledge of character and the way they brought them to life were Melynda Burdette (Judge/Store Manager), Marin Rose (Brooke Wyndham), Alexandra Hemphill (Enid Hoops), Adrian Williamson (Carlos) and Nate Smith (Kyle B. O'Boyle). These are more must-see actors. Bring it on!!
As for Tai Baumann, I had so hoped that you would have had a much more visible role because I think that you are an incredible actor! Next time, buddy. Go BIG!
Also appearing in "Legally Blonde The Musical” are Emily Haworth (Elle's Mom/D.A. Joyce Riley), Tim Bambara (Elle's Dad/Dewey), Connor McCabe (Grandmaster Chad), MacKenzie Cutcliffe (Whitney/Delta Nu), Tai Baumann (Kiki The Colorist), Patience Loscomb and Whitney O'Haver (Delta Nu/Bailiff).
In addition to production crew already mentioned, others are Jennifer Clark (Costume Design), Madison Dolchan and Sarah Sandifer (Props Designers),  Rebecca Brown (Stage Manager), Braxton Cooper (Lighting Designer), Sarah Sandifer (Assistant Stage Manager), Trevor McCabe (Light Board Operator), Sam Seek and Kage Tawney (Spot Operators), Marin Rose (Dance Captain), and Lillian Clark, Lily Ashenfelter and Hunter Dickson (Dog Caretakers).
On a final note, when you come to the show, please take notice of Brooke Wyndham's fitness class scene...it is OUTSTANDING! Very impressive to jump rope in unison, sing, act and get those  aerobics done!! AMAZING!!
The show continues this weekend and next - Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m., and Sundays, 2 p.m. For reservations or to purchase tickets, call 301-759-4990.