by Lindsey Hand
The 2007 musical, modeled after the hit movie, bends and snaps under the stars. With the cost of admission, you get two shows in one: the fluffy Malibu Barbie dreams of Elle Woods (Carly Ann Moore) to chase her man to Harvard Law; and, a story detailing the empowerment of Elle, and the importance of women supporting each other in the face of a society that devalues their voices, opinions, and aspirations. How you choose to view the show is up to you.
Elle is the stereotypical Malibu girl who cares most about nails, hair, and accessorizing—and her dramatic boyfriend, Warner Huntington III (Riley Beranek) would really complete her look with a proposal. When a public break-up leaves Elle in a shame-spiral of velour tracksuits and Milky Way consumption, she and her Delta Nu sisters decide following Warner to Harvard Law is the only recourse for her broken heart. Yet Warner’s new love—and “serious” person—Vivienne Kensington (Sarah Koch) stands in the way of actualizing Elle’s fantasy. Disenchanted by the rigor of a morally questionable Professor Callahan (Jamie Ulmer) and peers who dismiss her based on appearance, Elle doesn’t recognize her own brilliance until Emmett Forrest (Sam Ninegar) encourages her to pursue Law School for herself, and no one else. Elle also befriends a hairdresser, Paulette (Amy Koepke), who shows that law can be a force for good. With these revelations, Elle applies herself, eventually impressing Professor Callahan into granting her a prestigious intern position, defending exercise mogul Brooke Wyndham (Sarah Arten), accused of murder.
Though the plot could be considered a fluffy fantasy, it also conveys the power of believing in yourself, granting yourself agency, and fighting regardless of peer acceptance. We also get to see the strength of women coming together to believe and support each other—imbuing transformation for all.
This is truly a show from all and for all. Director/choreographer Courtney Piccoli peppers magical moments of choreography and characterization throughout the production; it takes the entire cast and whole stage to create the vision. The strongest aspect of this show is the ensemble. You will see new moments every night you attend, and everyone has a chance to shine—whether it’s a perfectly timed cymbal crash, or the hilarious eavesdropping of diners witnessing Elle’s humiliation. Everyone has a part (or more) and is dedicated to their decisions. When Harvard Law students move their desks onto the stage, it isn’t just a scene change. The cast and director use every moment to push toward their purpose, and we already get a sense of personalities with exits, entrances, and set changes. This show is not carried by a single or a few actors, it is steered together by the entire cast and crew.
Moore’s depiction of Elle is enchanting. Her voice is bright crystal, and the chemistry with Emmet is believable. Unlike the movie, we get more background on Emmett, allowing for Elle to also change him in meaningful ways. We see the development of their relationship between glances, small comments, and lingering a little longer. Elle is not merely a vacuous ditz. Moore lights up the entire space with her energy, sprinkling startling moments of insight and humor. She and Ninegar truly listen to each other on stage, making their back-and-forth exciting to watch. Paulette is a great balance to this, as her brazen personality and love for her dog show we benefit from a multitude of support systems when needing to overcome challenges.
The show itself is a challenge, with 34 actors, 15 mics, and a series of ensemble-driven dream-like sequences. Piccoli ensures the entire two-level pink stage is used meaningfully, as the cast hang from the stairs, depicting a wild night of partying, and the priceless, gaudy moment that Elle gives her admittance essay in person—musically backed by those who believe in her. The music itself is as beastly as the summer heat, the cast singing multiple runs in sync with each other. This lent the opener to a few difficulties, as vocalists appeared to push past the orchestra ever slightly before sound levels adjusted. Sound is the ultimate brute of The Bowl, combatting the open air, as well as occasional planes, trains… or helicopters. Only a couple opening night bobbles occurred between switching mics, but the cast and crew labored on professionally, holding their audience. This is a show that cast and crew will continually polish as they settle into the unique challenges of The Bowl, with each evening shining brighter than this already brilliant production.
The show runs from July 12-15 and 19-22. Lawn chairs and blankets are encouraged at Pinewood Bowl, with the 8 pm start time making both the heat and sun manageable. And for a show about believing in yourself: if Elle Woods can wear a velour tracksuit in 95 degrees, you can sit and be enchanted under the stars. I believe in you.
Lindsey Hand is a newly hired English teacher at Lincoln Southeast High School and recent graduate with a degree in English Language Arts. As a performance artist, Lindsey represented Omaha at the National Poetry Slam while acting as Managing and Artistic Director of Red Theater Lincoln. Lindsey is a Gaffney Award-winning essayist, and winner of both 2nd and 3rd place Laurus awards for poetry.