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Legally Blonde

Music and Lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin

Book by Heather Hach

Direction re-created by Marc Bruni

The Muny, St. Louis

June 21, 2011

So, it’s Summer, and in St. Louis that means it’s time for the Muny. This year, they’ve picked an ideal show to open the season with. Legally Blonde encompasses a lot of what the Muny is about–fun and spectacle.  That’s not to say that there haven’t been some great “serious” shows at the Muny because there have, but I think when most people think of the Muny they think of that huge stage with thousands of enthusiastic audience members watching, and big, grand, energetic and colorful productions.  Legally Blonde, based on the popular film, is certainly big, colorful and and whole lot of fun.

This is basically a variation of the classic “fish-out-of-water” situation, centering on perky UCLA fashion student Elle Woods, who loves her sorority, her chihuahua, and all things pink.  She also loves Warner (Matthew Hydzik), her upwardly mobile college boyfriend who decides that Elle isn’t serious enough for him, since he is headed to Harvard Law School and hopes to be a senator one day.  Elle is a determined girl, however, and she decides to follow Warner to Harvard in an effort to win him back.  She gets much more than she bargained for, as does Harvard itself and all the people she meets along the way.  It’s a journey of self-discovery for many of the characters, but especially for Elle herself.

The show’s point is that there is a lot more to Elle than meets the eye, and Zakrin does a very good job of conveying Elle’s inner strength and determination, and her intelligence despite all the trappings that made Warner write her off as superficial.  She also finds a good match in Emmett (D.B. Bonds), her law school mentor who teaches her about taking law school seriously just as she teaches him how to loosen up a little.  They have good chemistry together  (especially in the song “Take It Like a Man” in the second act), but the Emmett role seems a bit thankless, even though the charming, engaging Bonds makes the most of it.  The real standouts for me, performance-wise, were Lisa Howard as Elle’s hairdresser, Paulette (her song “Ireland” is a highlight), and Elle’s “Greek Chorus” of sorority sisters Serena (Tiffany Engen), Margot (Taylor Louderman) and Pilar (K.B. Hart), who always bring the energy when they appear.  Special mention needs to go to Colt Prattes, as well, as Kyle, the hunky UPS guy who manages to almost stop the show simply by walking across the stage! Ken Land as the hard-driving, somewhat slimy Professor Callahan also put in a convincing performance.

I found the energy of the show to be hit-or-miss, and a show like this depends on a great deal of energy and enthusiasm.  The second act was considerably more energetic than the first, however, as the cast just seemed to get into the sheer fun of the show.  Also, some of the more catchy numbers such as “Bend and Snap”, “There, Right There!” and the reprise of “Legally Blonde” are in this act, and there is a great, rousing finale as well.  I thought the whole ensemble managed to convey a great sense of fun through the entire second act, but there were times in the first act where the energy seemed to be lacking, and some of the choreography was a little out-of-synch.  It was opening night, though, and the fact that the show got increasingly more fun as the evening progressed bodes well for a good run.

The costumes and sets were suitably colorful and served very well to set the mood of the show, and the audience seemed to really love it.  My husband used to tease me for dragging him to “chick flicks”, and this is the ultimate “chick flick” musical, although he did enjoy it as well.  I think there’s a lot for everyone to enjoy.  The point of the show seems to be that we all need to set aside our pre-conceived notions of people and encourage them to fulfill their potential, but ultimately it’s less about the message and more about fun. I think, for the most part, Legally Blonde really delivered the fun.

Here’s a montage from YouTube:

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