The Manatee Players boasts a seriously enthusiastic homegrown audience that smiled, cheered and laughed continuously throughout its highly energetic opening-night production of “Legally Blonde.” The show is a feel-good delight, definitely deserving of the appreciative response. Based on the well-known movie starring Reese Witherspoon, which was based on a novel by Amanda Brown, the musical version was written by Heather Hach, and the music and lyrics are by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin.
Dewayne Barrett attacks the fast-paced direction and complex choreography with tumultuous gusto. The creative scenery designed by Mary Huston features movable, artist-drawn cutouts of trees with twinkling lights and building façades, along with some movable furniture props. David W. Walker’s costumes are designed with color in mind and include everything in abundance; from a gorgeous hot-pink dinner gown for the lead actress to multiple adorable, individualized outfits for the dozen or more dancers and peripheral characters.
The music is lively and upbeat, conducted by Rick Bogner and performed by Tony Bruno on percussion, Joe Wolf on trombone, Victor Mongillo on trumpet, Teri Booth on reeds, Nick Spagnuolo on bass, and Tony Rizzo and Nick Russell on guitar.
The opening number, “Omigod You Guys,” is hilarious, and energetically performed by Cassandra Maria Caballero, who is marvelously apt as the blonde Elle, Geena Ravella as Serena, Talia Byers as Margot, Holly Rizzo as Pilar, and Elle’s dancing, singing back-up group, the Delta Nus. After that, it’s one fun musical number after the other.
The number “Blood in the Water” is equally notable and features an offbeat characterization of professor Callahan by John Andruzzi. Other great performances include William E. Masuck as class-conscious Warner Huntington III — the villain of the piece — and Sarah Cassidy as Vivienne Kensington, Chad Mueller as Emmett Forrest and Karen Lalosh as Paulette — Elle’s friend and hair stylist.
And, just in case you want more marvelous characters, there’s Andrea Wright as Kate/Brooke Wyndham; Danae DeShazer as Chutney/Whitney/Store Clerk; Vera Samuels as Enid; Philip Croome as Winthrop; Tyler Brown as Aaron; Noelia Altamirano as Judge/Store Manager; Deborah Cochran as Elle’s Mom/Stenographer; Jonah Wright as Dewey/Kyle; Joseph Rebella as Lowell; Earl Wright as Elle’s Dad/TV Reporter; Brian Strubbe as Pforzheimer/Carlos; Jason Ellis as Chad/Nikos; Will Dixon as Padamadan; Edgar as Bruiser, the dog; and Penny as Rufus, the dog (so cute!)
Also included among the Harvard students, marching band, cheerleaders, inmates and salespeople were Victoria Najmy, Emma Slotabec, Zoe Verbil, Chantal Guerrero, Rachael Henry, Will Dixon and MaryKate Glidewell.
IF YOU GO
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday; runs through Sept. 2
Where: Manatee Players, 102 12th St. W., Bradenton
Box Office: Call 748-5875