BWW Reviews: The Muny Kickstarts Summer Season with Breezy and Fun LEGALLY BLONDE
Legally Blonde is like a well-cooked soufflé; light, fluffy and delicious. It's also good, silly fun. Based on the 2001 Reese Witherspoon vehicle, it's essentially that same story told a bit broader, and with a number of catchy tunes added. Like a lot of movie adaptations, it may be slightly forgettable in the long run, but it's enjoyable nonetheless. The current production now playing at the Muny in Forest Park is a colorful and engaging experience that's well worth your time and attendance.
For those who haven't seen the film or the musical version of Legally Blond, the plot revolves around a rich Malibu Barbie type, who comes complete with an ever-present pink ensemble, named Elle Woods, who's blindly and blissfully in love with the man of her dreams. When he decides to dump her and head off to Harvard Law School, Elle follows, but as a fellow student. Her iron will and steadfast devotion allow her, thanks to the generous support of her friends, to apply and enter Harvard. Apparently, her deep abiding love is reason enough to allow her entrance into this prestigious academy. Once enrolled, she actually begins to excel, thanks in part to the interests of third year student Emmett Forrest.
Lauren Ashley Zakrin, who filled in quite capably as a replacement for the original Elle when I saw the show at the Fox in 2009, gives an exuberant performance that really carries the show. Her reactions to Matthew Hydzik, as former boyfriend Warner Huntington III, during the breakup song "Serious", are both touching and funny. Hydzik does solid work as her ex, and this ballad is probably the strongest melody in the show, although the funky "Bend and Snap", which describes a move that well-defined girls can utilize to instantly grab a man's attention, is probably the most tuneful overall. D.B. Bonds (who also performed the role at the Fox in 2009) impresses as Emmett, duetting nicely with Zakrin on "Chip on My Shoulder", "Legally Blonde" and "Take it Like a Man". As a potential couple their chemistry is clearly evident and undeniable.
Lisa Howard amuses as Paulette, a salon stylist that Elle spills her guts to. Her own tale of romantic woe is defined by the silly tune, "Ireland". Ken Land (also from the 2009 tour) does fine work as Professor Callahan, the teacher everyone fears, but would die to serve an internship under. His views on the law are neatly summed up in the jazz-tinged number "Blood in the Water". Sara Shepperd is also quite good as Vivienne Kensington, Elle's rival for Warner's affections. Colt Prattes nearly steals the show as the strutting UPS man, Kyle (in addition to a couple of other minor roles), and his appearances sparked gales of laughter.
A strong supporting cast, including a Greek chorus composed of Elle's friends from Malibu and, of course, Elle's pet chihuahua Bruiser (played here by the very cute Chico), add to the merriment.
Marc Bruni's lively direction and Rusty Mowery's playful choreography keep the action moving at a brisk pace. Steve Gilliam's scenic design is splendidly realized, filling the huge Muny stage with a nice array of backdrops and set pieces, while. E. Mitchell Dana's lighting illuminates in various ways to fit the mood. The costumes, by the Kansas City Costume Company lean heavily on the pink side where Elle is concerned, as would be expected. The score by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin is pleasant, and nicely complements Heather Hach's reworking of the original screenplay. The Muny's orchestral ensemble produces a wonderful sound under Charlie Alterman's musical direction.
Legally Blonde is a breezy musical adaptation that delivers plenty of laughs. Its positive themes, like "following your dreams", and "never giving up on yourself", are universally inspiring ones used to good effect here. It's a perfectly entertaining way to kick off the 93rd season for the Muny, and it continues through June 26, 2011.
Photo credit: Carol Rosegg