BWW Review: Lyric Arts' Grand LEGALLY BLONDE Perfects the Goal 'She Persisted'
On the anniversary the film's debut (July 13, 2001) Lyric Arts at the Main Stage Theater stages a charming production of Legally Blonde: The Musical This flirty, fun and fabulous production that debuted in 2007 gives the audience Woods, (comma) Elle, a college coed who loves pink and aspires to attend Harvard Law School in the pursuit of true love. For those fans of Elle, Amanda Brown's original novel was actually submitted on pink paper, and the theme continues throughout the show. With music and lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe and Neil Benjamin accompanied by Heather Hach's book, the score features numerous Delta Nu sorority sisters, a Greek chorus, a hair dresser confidante and Ellle's famous pooch, Bruiser Woods, housed in a shocking pink carry all.
For those who might be unfamiliar with the novel, Delta Nu sorority sisters celebrate engagements and the expectant diamond rings as their college graduation approaches. Elle believes her beau Warner will pop the important question to her before they graduate. Instead Warner "says goodbye" to Elle and begins his search of "a girl with brains." In her own quest for Warner's love, Elle changes her life's direction to prove she, too, has the intelligence Warner craves-and in fall, meets him on the Harvard Law School campus after being admitted to law school, while the comedy ensues through an entire year.
From there, the evening provides almost 18 original songs and dance numbers accompanied by twelve live musicians under Anthony J. Sofie's direction. With the music discreetly piped into the theater, the audience might miss the orchestra's accomplishments. At the production helm, Director BenThietje coordinates lyrics, singing, numerous scene changes together with Lauri Kraft's athletic choreography and Samantha Kuhn Staneart's creative costumes for the huge cast of 25 plus with precision. The audience remains continually enthralled, smiling and laughing the entire night.
Three significant actors possess the voices and persona to inhabit Legally Blonde and capture emotional resonance necessary in the musical. A superb Amanda Mai's Elle balances strength with flirty playfulness and sincerity. Onstage almost the entire production, Mai's demanding role requires a "triple threat" professional, one who acts, dances and sings. As the older student Emmett who encourages Elle to persist, Armando Harlow Ronconi embodies the essence of his character's growing partnership with Elle. Again, Ronconi acts, dances and sings with ease, complementing Mai's Elle.
In a significant supporting role, Amanda White's hairdresser Paulette performs comedy numbers including "Ireland" and the musical's infamous "Bend and Snap" with airs of confidence, often hilarious and demanding spontaneous applause. Other supporting roles include Maxwell Emmett Ward's Warner, Natalie Dulka's Vivienne and Michael Dufault's Professor Callahan alongside Elle's personal Greek Chorus. The entire cast travels through Elle's first year of law school as she and her classmates vie for Professor Callahan's prestigious law internship-with the assorted failures and successes-Elle clothed in her preferred color of pink.
While the novel might celebrate its 20th year, the story retains a contemporary journey of discovering self and who you are, femininity, and trusting close friends. Since the film's inception, the indomitable Reese Witherspsoon characterized the blonde Elle, and this well known actor has grown in the past 20 years to embody what Elle represented. Witherspoon now owns her own production company, Draper James, design firm and captured Academy or Golden Globe awards, often as a producer and director, while also authoring a book on her Southern heritage. Numerous women have faced similar growth challenges including United States Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who overcame more stringent odds when she attended Harvard Law School being one of eight women in a class of over 500 men. She, too, became one of the top ten students to head the Harvard Law Review, the only woman in that class to do so, as her popular 2018 documentary "RBG" retells.
More recently, Alex Morgan of the US Women's National World Cup Soccer team was told by a coach she would only amount to a practice player on the field--- Morgan only made this record breaking team when another player bowed out at the last minute and yet scored seven goals. Co-Captain Megan Rapinoe has become the oldest player at 34 to score a goal in a World Cup final amid her other awards. Then, too, Serena Williams at age 37 almost died giving birth to her daughter Olympia, and still competes at a level to reach the finals of Grand Slam Tennis Tournaments while cherishing being a mother. The theme perfected by Elle before the #METOO movement resonates and reiterates decisively: "She Persisted."
"She Persisted"-Elle persisted without losing her femininity, a quest for a loving partner who appreciated her intelligence, or changing her blonde hair while maintaining her integrity with her friends, especially her sorority sisters. She accomplished these goals on the way to fulfilling her dreams and then transforming the world as she perceived it, even if slowly. She persisted.
Here's to Lyric Arts, a company that staged an ambitious and complex, a grand Legally Blonde with aplomb. Dedicate this production to Elle and all the women in the world who represent the resilience and tenacity of "she persisted" while wearing pink, or any other color they choose. Throughly enjoy the entertaining, hilarious and visually enticing musical. And then, please remind another young girl or woman: Yes, you can achieve your dreams, you can be yourself, and you can wear powerful pink. She persists.
Lyric Arts presents Legally Blonde: The Musical at the Main Stage Theater on Main Street in Anoka through August 4th. For information on future productions and the upcoming season or to purchase tickets for this performance, please visit: www.lyricarts.org.