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Review: Legally Blonde

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By John Baggett

After a very successful run of special summer shows, including a one week run of “Rock of Ages” at Liberty Hall and a one week run of “Peter Pan Jr.,” Tyler Civic Theatre is kicking off its 69th season in style. As always, each season begins with a big summer musical, and this year TCT has gone blonde. “Legally Blonde,” that is.

Based on the 2001 film of the same name, which was based on the novel by Amanda Brown, the heroine of our story is Elle Woods (Sarah Smith), current President of the Delta Nu sorority, a fashion major with a 4.0, and bride to be. Or at least she hopes to be. She and her sisters anticipate that her longtime boyfriend, Warner Huntington III (Bryce Neal), is going to propose before heading off to law school. When he breaks up with her instead, stating that he needs someone more “serious,” Elle decides she too will get into Harvard Law School. By studying hard instead of partying, she finds herself accepted into the school, but not accepted by her classmates.

Harvard doesn’t really matter to Elle, as she is there for love. Warner is naturally shocked that Elle has followed him to Harvard, and even more shocked that she got in. However, the biggest shock comes to Elle when she meets Warner’s new girlfriend, Vivienne (Amanda Spangler), who manages to get our love sick heroine kicked out of Professor Callahan’s class for not being prepared. After some more humiliation, Elle seeks comfort at the salon. There she meets Paulette (Kim Hodges), another unlucky in love woman stuck in the college town, making her first friend. Her second friend comes in the form of Emmett (Cameron Davis), Callahan’s assistant who believes Elle could succeed if she would just apply herself.

Elle begins to take her studies seriously, impressing Callahan. Things gets shaken up and Callahan is hired by successful fitness guru, Brooke Wyndham (Tessa Anderson), as her defense after being arrested for her husband’s murder. It is announced that Callahan will pick the four best students to help on the case, assuring them a job at the end of the trial if they win. To everyone’s surprise, Elle is picked along with Vivienne, Warner, and activist turned law student Enid (Nicki Dempsey). Elle gains Brooke’s trust, as they are both Delta Nu members, and Brooke gives Elle her alibi, but makes her promise not to reveal it to anybody. To the annoyance of her team, Elle makes them search for other ways to prove Brooke’s innocence. However, winning the case will be no easy feat, making Elle have to prove she is worthy of being a Harvard Law Student and one of Callahan’s associates.

“Legally Blonde” is directed by Kathleen Hemness, her first directorial job with Civic Theatre. With assistance from choreographer Shelby Moy, music director May Wright, and a talented production crew, they bring this show to life. Armed with a cast of TCT veterans and some actors making their debuts on the Civic Theatre stage, this show will no doubt please anyone that sees it. It’s, for lack of a more appropriate word, cute, but that’s not demeaning. This show is supposed to be cute. It’s also really funny, and if you don’t have at least one of the songs stuck in your head on the drive home, then you weren’t paying attention.

The cast for this show is huge, so I don’t quite have the space to name every single person on stage, which annoys me, but it’s clear every member of this cast worked hard to nail their roles. Smith, as our lead, shines. She is a delight to watch, making the character her own and not just copying what was done in the movie. Neal is great as Warner, along with a second character that I will not spoil for you,  truly is hilarious.

Davis is fantastic as Emmett, becoming the character I almost ended up rooting for more over Elle. Spangler, a veteran of many TCT shows, is wonderful, truly outshining her movie counterpart as well, going from a character you hate (in a good way) to being one of the most important people on our heroine’s journey. Rainwater as the tough and oh so scummy Callahan is great. Watching him, it was obvious he was having a blast playing a creep. Hodges, making her first stage appearance in years, is another standout, stealing every scene she is in, and in her fist Civic Theatre role, Anderson nails it as Wyndham.

Some other scene stealers come from our ensemble cast, including Walker Delk, Chris Fisher, and in the coveted role of the UPS delivery man, Jack Ragland. If none of these three make you laugh, then you need to check your pulse. The rest of the cast (Kelsey McFall, Kennedy Box, Michaela Ellis, Nicole Moore, Rachael Cilliers, Emilie Casper, Ryan Jackson, Cassandra Smith, Amanda Kattengell, Savannah Williams, Anna Cox, DeAnna Hargrove, and Allison Cambre) were all great and I wish I could pay each and every one of them an individual compliment, but this review would go on forever. I do, however, have to give Coby Archa a shout out, for his a brief cameo during “Bend and Snap,” and it’s great to see him on stage outside of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

“Legally Blonde” is a fun, truly hilarious show that makes for a great date night, girls night, or just regular night out at the theater.

“Legally Blonde” opened Thursday, July 20 and runs through Sunday, August 6.  For information, visit www.tylercivictheatre.com/

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April 25th-28th: “Hamlet” on Stage at TJC

‘Hamlet’ to be Theatre TJC’s final production of the season

Theatre TJC will close its 2017-18 season with William Shakespeare’s searing story of murder and revenge, “Hamlet.”

Show times are 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, April 25-28, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday, April 28, in Jean Browne Theatre.

Tickets go on sale Wednesday, April 18. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for seniors and students, and free with a valid TJC ID. Box office hours are noon-6 p.m. weekdays through the run on the show. For reservations, call 903-510-2212.

The production is under the direction of Denise Weatherly-Green.

Long considered one of The Bard’s best plays, “Hamlet” is the tale of a Danish prince tormented by despair, insanity and a drive for vengeance. The play has been inspiring the minds and exhausting the hearts of theater-goers and readers alike for centuries.

Cast includes: Hamlet – Sean-Riley Cunningham, Tyler; King Claudius – Bryce Neel, Troup; Queen Gertrude – Nicki Dempsey, Tyler; Old Hamlet’s Ghost – Stone French, Whitehouse; Polonius – J.W. McFarland, Bullard; Ophelia – Bailey Patton, Mansfield; Laertes – Gerardo Carreon, Matamoros, Mexico; Horatio – Walker Delk, Tyler; Rosencrantz – Bryson Chalk, Big Sandy; Guildenstern – Iliana Herrera, Tyler; Marcellus – Mar’Quise Johnson, Oceanside, California; Barnardo – Colin Thomas, Frisco; Francisco – William Clark, Whitehouse; First Player – King, Levi Hawkins, Hughes Springs; Second Player – Queen, Savannah Williams, Tyler; Third Player – Trey Frosch, Kaufman; Clown 1 – Joey Herrera, Katy; and Clown 2 – Rita Roman, Quitman.

Crew includes: stage manager – Tate Bivens, Paris; assistant stage manager – Grace Luttrell, New Diana; director’s assistant – Ellie Hudson, Tyler; and sound design – Katlyn Lamar – Canton.

The production is part of TJC’s fourth annual Arts Festival, a month-long celebration of exhibits and performances by TJC students, faculty and staff. For a complete list of events, go to www.tjc.edu/ArtsFestival.

 

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At Cowan Center: “The Wizard of Oz” April 21st

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The Cowan Center is located at 3900 University Blvd. on the UT Tyler campus. Tickets are available at the box office, by calling (903)566-7424, or go to cowancenter.org. Upcoming productions are:

April 21st (7:30pm) – “The Wizard of Oz” will be presented at the Cowan Center. There truly is no place like home! The entire family will be captivated as they travel down the Yellow Brick Road and beyond with Dorothy, Toto, and their friends the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow in this lavish production, featuring breathtaking special effects, dazzling choreography, and classic songs. Tickets are $37-$72.

April 28th (7:30pm) – Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 will be presented at the Cowan Center. The East Texas Symphony will close their season with Beethoven’s monumental Symphony No. 9.  The Orchestra will be joined by ETSO Chorus, UT Tyler Concert Chorale, and Patriot Singers, and a quartet of soloists.  The concert also features the ETSO premieres of Handel’s Zadok the Priest and Brahms’ Nanie.  It’s a grand evening of choral music ending the season on a high note.

May 10th (7:30pm) – The Celtic Women will be presented at the Cowan Center. This global phenomenon started on a winter Dublin night in 2004. The idea was conceived to create a musical ensemble featuring a selection of exceptional classically and traditionally trained Irish female musicians. Tickets are $42-$77.

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Theatre Guide: “Love, Loss & What I Wore” on Stage at Lindale Theatre

 

Upcoming Events, Concerts & Plays

April 20th-22nd (Nightly at 7:30pm, Sunday Matinee 2pm) – “Love, Loss & What I Wore” –  This is a play of monologues and ensemble pieces about women, clothes, and memory covering all the important subjects: mothers, prom dresses, mothers, buying bras, mothers, hating purses, and why we only wear black. Based on the bestselling book by Ilene Beckerman. Lindale Community Theatre is located at 109 W. Hubbard St., Lindale, lindalecommunitytheater.org.

April 21st (7:30pm) – “The Wizard of Oz” will be presented at the Cowan Center. There truly is no place like home as the greatest family musical of all time, “The Wizard of Oz” twists its way into the Cowan Center! The entire family will be captivated as they travel down the Yellow Brick Road and beyond with Dorothy, Toto, and their friends the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow in this lavish production, featuring breathtaking special effects, dazzling choreography, and classic songs. Sales begin March 26th. Tickets are $37-$72. The Cowan Center is located at 3900 University Blvd. on the UT Tyler campus. Tickets are available at the box office, by calling (903)566-7424, or go to cowancenter.org.

April 21st (7:30pm) – “All That Jazz!” featuring Ning An on piano will be presented by the Longview Symphony Orchestra at The Belcher Performance Center. Belcher Performance Center at LeTourneau University is located at 2100 S. Mobberly, Longview. For more info call (903)233-3080 or go to belchercenter.com.

April 23rd (6:30pm) – “Dinosaur Zoo” will be presented at The Belcher Performance Center. Erth’s “Dinosaur Zoo Live” guides you on a breathtaking tour through prehistoric Australia. You’ll observe, meet and interact with an eye-popping collection of amazingly life-like dinosaurs and other creatures presented in a theatrical performance that will thrill and entertain kids while stimulating their imaginations in ways that will forever connect them to their world. Brought to life by a team of skilled performers and puppeteers, and designed with the help of professional paleontologists, Erth’s DINOSAUR ZOO LIVE’s puppets are so extraordinarily realistic you may feel the urge to run and hide – but don’t! While this fun, unique, entertaining, and educational live show created by Erth Visual & Physical of Sydney, Australia may have been 65 million years in the making, you’ll agree, it’s well worth the wait! Belcher Performance Center at LeTourneau University is located at 2100 S. Mobberly, Longview. For more info call (903)233-3080 or go to belchercenter.com.

April 28th (7:30pm) – East Texas Symphony Orchestra presents Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Choral, which includes the powerful “Ode to Joy” in the last movement. The orchestra will be joined by four soloists, the ETSO Chorus, and the combined UT Tyler Chorus and Patriot Singers. Cameron Rose, director of choirs at The University of Texas at Tyler, will direct the choruses. For more info or tickets go to etso.org or call (903)526-3876. Concerts are performed at the UT Tyler R. Don Cowan Fine and Performing Arts Center. Concerts begin at 7:30pm.

May 4th-6th, 10th-13th (Nightly at 7:30pm, Sunday at 2:30 for a Mother’s Day Brunch) – “The Odd Couple” – This classic comedy opens as a group of the guys assemble for cards in the apartment of divorced Oscar Madison. And if the mess is any indication, it’s no wonder that his wife left him. Late to arrive is Felix Unger, who has just been separated from his wife. Fastidious, depressed, and none too tense, Felix seems suicidal, but as the action unfolds, Oscar becomes the one with murder on his mind when the clean freak and the slob ultimately decide to room together with hilarious results as “The Odd Couple” is born. The May 13th, Mother’s Day show offers an optional brunch. Tyler Civic Theatre is located at 400 Rose Park Dr., Tyler, next to the Tyler Rose Garden Center. For more info call (903)592-0561 or go to tylercivictheatre.com.

May 4th-6th, 11th-13th (Nightly at 7:30pm, Sunday at 2:30) – “The Miracle Worker” will be on stage at Henderson Civic Theater. “The Miracle Worker” is a three-act play by William Gibson adapted from his 1957 Playhouse 90 teleplay of the same name. It is based on Helen Keller’s autobiography, “The Story of My Life.” Henderson Civic Theater is located at 122 E. Main, Henderson. For more info call (903)657-2968 or go to hendersoncivictheatre.org.

May 10th (7:30pm) – The Celtic Women will be presented at the Cowan Center. They’ve sold more than ten million albums and three million tickets. Now, the global phenomenon known as Celtic Woman is set to embark on another world tour, which will include a stop in Tyler. It all started on a winter Dublin night in 2004. The idea was conceived to create a musical ensemble featuring a selection of exceptional classically and traditionally trained Irish female musicians. Sales begin April 9th. Tickets are $42-$77. The Cowan Center is located at 3900 University Blvd. on the UT Tyler campus. Tickets are available at the box office, by calling (903)566-7424, or go to cowancenter.org.

May 19th (6pm) – “50th Anniversary Gala” will be presented by Tyler Civic Chorale. For more info go to tylercivicchorale.org or facebook.com/tylercivicchorale. Tickets are available through TCC members and at the door.

July 4th (4pm) – “Annual Independence Day Concert” will be presented by Tyler Civic Chorale at First Presbyterian Church, 230 W. Rusk St., Tyler. For more info go to tylercivicchorale.org or facebook.com/tylercivicchorale. Tickets are available through TCC members and at the door.

July 13th-15th, 20th-22nd (Nightly at 7:30pm, Sunday at 2:30) – “Charlotte’s Web” will be on stage at Henderson Civic Theater. All the enchanting characters from the book are here: Wilbur, the irresistible young pig who desperately wants to avoid the butcher; Fern, a girl who understands what animals say to each other; Templeton, the gluttonous rat who can occasionally be talked into a good deed; the Zuckerman family; the Arables; and, most of all, the extraordinary spider, Charlotte, who proves to be “a true friend and a good writer.” Henderson Civic Theater is located at 122 E. Main, Henderson. For more info call (903)657-2968 or go to hendersoncivictheatre.org.

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