Music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin. Book by Heather Hach. Based on the novel by Amanda Brown and the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer motion picture. Directed by Valerie Easton. A Theatre Under the Stars production. At Malkin Bowl on Tuesday, July 22. Continues in rep until August 23
Oh my God, you guys! Legally Blonde is so much fun! Just go already—even if you’ve seen it before.
Based on Amanda Brown’s book and the Reese Witherspoon movie, this musical tells the story of a bimbo named Elle whose boyfriend Warner dumps her because he’s going to Harvard Law School, he has political ambitions, and he wants somebody “classy and not too tacky”. Determined to win him back, Elle, who has a 4.0 grade-point average (in fashion advertising) at UCLA, brushes up her SAT score and follows Warner to the Ivy League.
Legally Blonde is kind of like a drag musical with (mostly) straight characters in that it plays with the wacky energies and ironies of popular culture and gender performance. In “What You Want”, Elle, whose signature colour is pink, describes the serious person she must become for the sake of love: “Someone who wears black when nobody’s dead.” And “Gay or European” poses an eternal question: “Look at his coiffed and crispy locks./Look at his silk translucent socks./There’s the eternal paradox…/Is he gay?/Of course he’s gay./Or European?”
Theatre Under the Stars mounted this musical last summer and it was such a hit that they’ve brought it back. There’s been some recasting, and Jocelyn Gauthier, who plays Elle this time out, is stellar. A strong singer and terrific dancer, she never loses track of Elle’s spunky, vulnerable heart. And she’s got a great way with a line delivery. At a crucial juncture, Elle discovers that the legal system can help the underdog: just wait till you hear how many syllables Gauthier finds in the word law when Elle asks, “Is that…law?”
A number of strong performers from last year have also returned. Scott Walters plays Emmett, a geek who becomes Elle’s mentor at Harvard, with a sure, sweet voice and doglike charm. Cathy Wilmot is crazily charismatic as Elle’s hairdresser friend, Paulette. Warren Kimmel, who plays Callaghan, the brutal law prof, proves once again that he understands musical theatre on a cellular level. And Peter Cumins, who makes a handsome and appropriately caddish Warner, displays his vocal chops with the ornamentations in “Serious”. Outstanding vocal work as well from Amy Gartner (Warner’s new girlfriend, Vivienne).
There are a couple of weaker spots. Brittany Cairns plays Brooke, the exercise queen whom Elle defends in Act 2, without the requisite stylish playfulness. And in a weird costuming snafu, Jeffrey Montano (Nikos, the gay or European man in question) wears a terrible wig and the ugliest clothes on-stage.
Overall, though, the physical production—direction and choreography by Valerie Easton, musical direction by Kerry O’Donovan, and costumes by Chris Sinosich—is as tight and snappy as can be.
Watching Legally Blonde, I kept finding myself laughing out loud in sheer delight.