Legally Blonde is a blast from start to finish

Music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin. Book by Heather Hach. Based on a story by Amanda Brown. Directed by Valerie Easton. A Theatre Under the Stars production. At Malkin Bowl on Wednesday, July 10. Continues in rep until August 17

This production of Legally Blonde is a giant-size Gucci bag stuffed with talent. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Theatre Under the Stars production so deeply well-cast and fully realized. It’s a blast from start to finish.

Based on the Reese Witherspoon movie, which was drawn from Amanda Brown’s book, Legally Blonde tells the story of Elle Woods, who gets dumped by her boyfriend, Warner, just when she thinks he’s going to propose. Warner, who’s heading off to Harvard Law School, wants “somebody classy and not too tacky”. Determined to win him back, the finger-snapping, positive-thinking Elle, who has a 4.0 grade-point average—in fashion merchandising—brushes up her SAT score and lands a spot in Harvard law herself.

Bimbos are the most appealing clowns the goddess ever invented, and Elle is a classic bimbo. Because they’re innocent and effervescent, bimbos look foolish at first, but their hearts are true and, in their most moving variations, they turn out to be wise. (If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favour and watch Judy Holliday in the 1950 movie Born Yesterday.) Elle, one of the smart ones, soon realizes that she can use her unique perspective and legal smarts to do good.

The musical has fun with girlie airheadedness. The first song is titled “Omigod You Guys”. And the show revels in Elle’s pop-culture acuity. When she suspects that one of the players in a murder trial might not be as straight as he claims—because he’s not interested in her ass—the entire courtroom breaks into Legally Blonde’s best number, which asks the musical question “Is he gay or European?”

Breanne Arrigo knocks it out of the park, more or less literally, as Elle. A powerful belter with great comic timing, Arrigo never loses sight of the character’s emotional truth. Peter Cumins makes a golden-voiced, charmingly caddish Warner, and Scott Walters balances that with his openhearted work as Emmett, Warner’s geeky rival for Elle’s heart. (In bimbo stories, there’s always a cad and a geek.)

As Brooke, the exercise queen and murder suspect, Katie Murphy aces the ridiculously difficult “Whipped Into Shape”, and Warren Kimmel, one of the best musical-theatre performers in town, delivers an authoritative performance as Callahan, the nasty law prof. Andrea Bailey plays Vivienne, who starts off as the mean girl in law school, and even in ensemble numbers you can hear the impressive power and range of her voice. In this deep talent pool, Marissa Dunbar, Emily Henney, and Synthia Yusuf work it like there’s no tomorrow as Elle’s sorority sisters.

Director Valerie Easton deserves huge credit for casting this production so well, for polishing it so beautifully, and for delivering crazily sassy, infectiously energetic choreography.

Good times.

Comments (17) Add New Comment
Emily Henney
Thank you for the mention! I thought you should know that it's Marissa Dunbar who plays Margot, not Melissa Dunbar.
Rating: +10
Miranda Nelson
Thanks Emily, we've updated it!
Rating: -7
Colin Thomas GS
Yes, thanks Emily. Sorry, Marissa.
Have a great run!
Rating: 0
Susan Pate
Saw the show on opening night! Congrats to everyone but especially to our own Marissa Dunbar who we are so proud of for landing the part as Margot in her debut in the theatre world!
Rating: +5
Martin Dunphy
Emily, Miranda, Colin:

That spelling was changed to reflect the spelling published in the cast list by TUTS itself.
Sorry, all. (Colin, not your fault.)
TUTS? You have a change to make.
Rating: -8
So glad we have TUTS every summer.
Saw Music Man last year-great!!

It is just magic to sit outside on a hot summer's night and watch talented performerers putting on a wonderful show.

Will be getting tickets to Legally Blonde and really looking forward to another night under the stars!

Rating: +13
How about tragedy instead of comedy for next years TUTS? Making people laugh is NOT the basis of good entertainment--though clearly the entertainment industry thinks it is.
Rating: -18
For Hazlit:

I'm guessing you did not attend Titanic the Musical last summer at TUTS. I would definitely consider that a "tragedy".

I would also challenge you come up with a list of big cast family friendly musicals that are tragedies... West Side Story is the first to come to mind to me...
Rating: +12
For Chris,

I don't attend musicals nor do I care for "family-friendly" fare. Both of these genres create empty entertainment that does not expand the mind. However, it is entirely possible to produce art that appeals to children and educates as well as entertaining.
Rating: -12
george s

if you don't attend musicals and you are criticizing TUTS for its choices, then you are


and should get a life...
Rating: +7
Weather it be 'family-friedly', tragedy or comedy, there is fun to be had, emotions to be felt, and an educational message to be learned in almost everything if you have the openness to receive it or a will to "expand the mind". Most patrons who come to TUTS, come to be a part of a traditional Vancouver experience in the historical outdoor theatre, The Malkin Bowl, and to be entertained by some of the most talented artists around. They do an amazing job at creating those memories for generations of families and locals and tourists alike, who come back year after year.
Hazlit, I am so sorry you have been let down by the entertainment industry from your perspective but personally knowing the struggles of being a full-time performer, I can say that I am very proud of this production and to be able to contribute to what I know has brought many people great joy!

Rating: +11
Evan Dor
Hazlit, in addition to being a troll who should get a life, you may also be a pompous blowhard. Are you able to make an even slightly persuasive argument to support your assertion that making people laugh is not the basis of good entertainment?
Rating: +5
Evan Dor,

I am a pompous blowhard. Now that you've discovered that, do you say ok I know what you are, and stop listening? Or do you accept that the pompous blowhard may have something to say? Sadly, I suspect it's the former.

No, I can't prove that making people laugh isn't art, but of course that depends upon your definition and who's doing the defining. While Chaucer has his share of fart jokes he also has sympathy and wit.

Most comedy today is either nasty--making fun of people--or merely stupid--ALL fart jokes. (Yes, I know George Carlin does political comedy.) And everyone loves comedy--it's what the market wants.

I'm merely questioning the predominant mode (stupid, nasty, pro-money) of our current culture. Funny how being a pompous blowhard has become the new mode of rebellion.
Rating: -8
Martin Dunphy
I could be wrong here, but it seems that what is being lost in this back and forth is the fact that TUTS has a mandate to produce summer musical theatre.
It wouldn't produce "tragedy" or similarly themed productions even if its board wanted to.
And most musical-theatre productions, if not actually comedies, fall under the heading of at least "feel-good" entertainment, or something in that neighbourhood.
It is family-friendly, after all.
Rating: -1
Martin is right. TUTS has a mandate "that entertains families through popular musical theatre shows while providing a vibrant outlet and training ground to develop amateur performers and technicians both young and old. TUTS values an atmosphere of inclusion and mentorship in order to build strong character and to promote positive values."

Whether or not the idea of a Tragedy musical exists, my initial question to Hazlit was how many he could think of...

With Titanic and Westside... Maybe Little shop of horrors... My mind is running blank on big cast family friendly musicals that also would be considered tragedies. I'm posing a question, not an opinion.

Which family friendly big cast musical that is considered a tragedy has yet to be seen at TUTS? Or should be seen again, if its been a few years?
Rating: -8
Martin Dunphy
Well, Sound of Music featured some pretty good songs from people being chased through the mountains by Nazis.....
Rating: +15
Just saw this production tonight - it was fabulous - loved it!
Rating: -3
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