Arts and Entertainment

A fun show gives girls a spotlight | Theater Review

The show includes all-female “Greek chorus” of sororiety sisters - Craig Hanson Photos
The show includes all-female “Greek chorus” of sororiety sisters
— image credit: Craig Hanson Photos

Living as we do, in the age of “Glee,” you’d be hard pressed to find a performing art form more ubiquitous than the high school musical, and now Island fans of the genre don’t even have to settle for a virtual version.

That’s right, it’s time to turn off the TV, power down the iPad and head out for a dazzling dose of the real deal — Vashon High School’s current production of “Legally Blonde: The Musical.”

You’re bound to have fun watching our local teens strut their stuff in this outlandish new musical.

The show — adapted from a novel and the subsequent 2001 chick-flick hit of the same name — took Broadway and London’s West End by storm just a few years ago, and rights have only recently been made available for high schools to do the musical.

It’s easy to see why VHS principal and show co-director Susan Hanson jumped at the chance to stage it here — the show is filled with juicy parts for talented young females, which the school’s theater department attracts in abundance. And after last year’s staging of the sumptuous but half-century-old “Camelot,” it probably felt like time to tackle something more up-to-date.

“Legally Blonde” is that, in spades. For better or worse, the show is a thoroughly modern musical, with a high-pitched pop score that requires singers to belt out impossible notes while doing things like executing frenzied Irish step-dancing routines. It’s a wild, silly and athletic ride, where old-fashioned things like character development and plot are a little bit beside the point.

Still, it helps to know the basics: after a ditzy sorority girl named Elle Woods (Anna Hicks) is dumped by her boyfriend (Sage Everett) for not being serious enough for his tastes, she follows him to Harvard Law School to win him back by proving her intellectual mettle. There, she meets another young man (Alec Spencer), a lowly law clerk who inspires her to have a little self-respect and use her brainpower for a higher purpose. In return, she teaches him how to love department stores, dress for success and suss out the real killer in a murder case.

Think “The Bachelorette” meets “Boston Legal,” set to the soundtrack of “Hannah Montana.” Is it shallow? Borrowing from the vernacular of the show, the only answer is “like, totally.” But it’s also highly entertaining.

And the most wonderful thing about the show at VHS is the way the young Island actors so fully embrace their roles and turn their cardboard characters into fully dimensional human beings.

Anna Hicks is radiant as Elle, not only singing and dancing with real skill, but also fully following the arc of Elle’s emotional and intellectual growth.

Hailey Quackenbush, as a hard-bitten beauty parlor operator, is another marvel. On a stage full of ingenues, Quackenbush reveals herself as something special: a real character actress, someone who can take on comic, older, touching roles that require real acting chops. And she sings beautifully as well.

Lizzie Schoen gives her considerable all to the role of Vivienne, a preppy princess who goes from being Elle’s arch-enemy to one of her biggest admirers.

Also worth mentioning is a too-brief turn in the spotlight by Zoe Ferguson-Steele, and a performance by Kaydi Rosser, who rather remarkably proves she can act, sing and do a complicated jump rope routine, all at the same time.

A lot of other young women — sadly, too many to mention by name — also shine in the show as Elle’s sorority sisters, who move the action of the show along as a singing and dancing “Greek” chorus.

But let’s hear it for the boys, too. Alec Spencer, as Elle’s mentor and love interest Emmett Forrest, gives a charming, confident performance, and Sage Everett is suitably smarmy as the social-climbing Warner Huntington III.

Duncan Ende is hilarious as a hunky UPS man, and Devan Barnes and Casey Gripp, with their zesty embrace of comedic bit parts, come close to stealing the show on more than one occasion.

Someone else worth mentioning is VHS drama teacher Stephen Floyd — who not only co-directed the show but also took over the role of a loathsome law professor after the high-school actor playing the part transferred to another school. Floyd gives a powerhouse performance with a show-stopping song of his own.

Kudos also go to those who worked behind the scenes. The set is beautiful, the lights burn brightly, the band sounds great and the wildly complicated choreography is impressive.

Now you should do your part, too. You’ve got the easiest job of all. Go see the show, and give the kids a hand.

 

The show, considered PG, will be performed on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through April 1. Friday and Saturday evening shows are at 7:30 p.m., Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets for most evening shows cost $15 for adults and $12 for students and seniors. Matinee tickets are $12. The performance this Saturday is a fundraiser for Vashon Rotary; tickets are $15.

 

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