BWW Review: Artistry's LEGALLY BLONDE Proposes Illegal, Incomparable Delight in Pink
Woods comma Elle descended upon the cultural scene wrapped up as Reese Witherspoon in the 2001 film "Legally Blonde." "Legally Blonde 2" followed shortly after. Bloomington's Artistry Theater at the Bloomington Center for the Arts opened the Broadway version of the film based on the musical's New York 2007 debut, after which the musical was christened with a Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical. The music and lyrics by composed by Neil Benjamin and Laurence O'Keefe, Heather Hach delivered a clever book for the production. In the film and the musical, Elle Woods wins the audiences' hearts with her unabashed love of anything pink and plucky confidence that overflows throughout the story.
Artistry Theatre produces a charming professional rendition of the beloved musical. Besides incorporating almost a completely female technical staff, including Director Angela Timberman, Choreographer Heidi Spesard-Noble and Music Director Anita Ruth (who conducts the 12 piece orchestra), lead Angela Steele's slight frame transcends the theatre to present an Elle to cheer. Whether Elle kibitzes with her hairdresser Paulette or collaborates with her handsome mentor Emmett played by Benjamin Rubenstein, Steele delights the audience with vitality. Cast as Elle's attractive, older Emmett, Rubenstein creates an admirable and winning chemistry with Steele's Elle. Her voice reverberates with energy and life in this now iconic role and pairs well with Rubenstein's.
In supporting roles, Paul R. Coates' s Professor Callahan capitalizes on his huge voice to intimidate his students, especially Elle comma Woods. Also, Mary Palazzolo's Paulette Bonafonté' as her comic hairdresser, Elle's cool headed confidante, overflows with chutzpah and adds unexpected elements of the sisterhood, especially when she connects to the Irish Fed Ex man, Kyle Brendan played by Lars Nisswandt. A huge cast accompanies the stellar leads, especially Wood's Greek Chorus, Caitlin Featherstone, Mari Hoist and Brittany Marie Wilson, who lend their voices in encouraging the action and music, along with the two canine stars, Bruiser and Rufus. Crowd pleasing, show stopping numbers through the evening include "What You Want," "The Harvard Variations," "Whipped into Shape," and the femme fatale chorus in "Bend and Stoop."
While this feel good, feminine musical might be passed off as a pure theatrical delight only, Elle's character replays some of the very situations and words found in a recent documentary titled "RBG." In this popular documentary on the life of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Associate Supreme Court Justice, RBG completed her undergraduate work at Cornell University, where there were approximately seven men to one women. Women attended there to "catch and marry a man" in Ruth's day and age, almost like Elle's sorority sisters, who hope to have a man 'to put a ring on it." Ginsberg lamented these brilliant female students hid their intelligence to date and marry a man. A situation similar to when Elle says to Emmett, "You saw beyond my blonde to my mind."
These sentiments echo a recent study of on-line dating styles that claims women with higher degrees are one of the least sought after persons for online dating sites. Elle also echoed Ginsberg who married her own husband Marty because he was "the first man who cared she had a mind," and together, Ruth and Marty, entered Harvard Law School where RBG was one of nine women in a class of over 500 men. When Marty graduated, Ruth switched to Columbia University where she graduated first in her class. While Elle Woods was supported by more women in her own Harvard Law School class, she still faced some alienation from her professor, for her underperformance when she first arrived, and her propensity for being entirely too feminine, although Elle, too , finished a valedictorian for her Harvard Law class.
In 2017, Ginsberg's grand daughter graduated from Harvard Law School where now the male/female ratio was almost 50 percent women to 50 percent men. Yet, in the years between Ginsberg, Elle Woods and Ginsberg's grand daughter, Ruth remains only one of two women ever nominated for the United States Supreme Court first established in 1780--two women on the Supreme Court through 200 years.
Hail to Elle Woods-who brought several of these contemporary issues into the forefront, using humor and music in a perpetually upbeat musical that reminds the audience to live their best selves. The heroine Elle also presents the premise women could be ultra feminine and brilliant without sacrificing the sisterhood, or their loyalty to the ones they loved while embracing her innate lover of pink dresses and shoes. What a powerful message amid all the proposed lawsuits and trials inundating the news these days.
Artistry's amazing, admirable and accomplished Legally Blonde continues through August 19-And for all those Woods comma Elle fans, Reese Witherspoon reprises her role in "Legally Blonde Three" dated for arriving in theaters February 2019. Cheer, scream and support Elle and her sisters when she believes she learned "how to fail and prevail" while all women fight to gain the right to be intelligent and legally blonde, brunette or redhead and in this day and age, any wonderful color, including pink, they choose.