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BWW Reviews: Splendid Production of LEGALLY BLONDE by Stages St. Louis

Stages St. Louis continues their 2013 season with the musical adaptation of the 2001 Reese Witherspoon vehicle, Legally Blonde. It's a pleasant romantic comedy that, like a lot of modern musicals, pokes fun at itself, but it also features a positive message about believing in oneself. The clever compositions of Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin are a nice complement to Heather Hach's reworking of the screenplay (based on the novel by Amanda Brown). Together, they create a bubbly and enjoyable atmosphere that's as light and fluffy as a cloud, and Stages St. Louis follows that lead with a perfectly charming and delightful production.

The story revolves around a well to do, pink clad and pampered girl named Elle Woods, who's blissfully in love with the man of her dreams. But, when he dumps her and heads off to Harvard Law School, a determined Elle follows, surprisingly, as a fellow student. Once enrolled, she actually begins to excel, thanks in part to the interests of third year student Emmett Forrest. In addition to the obvious romantic entanglements that ensue, there's also a courtroom drama that drives the plot. As one of students working on the case, Elle gets the opportunity to display the unique assets which she brings into a court of law.

Michelle London is a perky powerhouse as Elle, and her reactions to Brandon Davidson, as former boyfriend Warner Huntington III, during the breakup song "Serious", are alternately touching and funny. Davidson does solid work as her ex, and this ballad is probably the strongest song melodically in the show, but the funky "Bend and Snap", which describes a move that shapely girls can utilize to instantly grab a man's attention, is easily the most memorable. The always reliable and energetic Ben Nordstrom impresses as Emmett, performing sweet duets with London on "Chip on My Shoulder", "Legally Blonde" and "Take it Like a Man". Heather Jane Rolff amuses as Paulette, a salon stylist that Elle spills her guts to. Her own tale of romantic woe is spelled out in the ridiculously silly tune, "Ireland". David Schmittou does very fine work as Professor Callahan, a law teacher who inspires as much fear as he does respect. His view of the law is neatly summed up in the song "Blood in the Water". Shannon O'Boyle is also quite good as Vivienne Kensington, Elle's rival for Warner's affections. The real scene stealer of the show is Elle's diminutive pooch, Bruiser, played here by the irrepressibly cute Jose.

Michael Hamilton directs and Rusty Mowery choreographs this playful and exuberant piece, and both keep the show moving along at a nice pace. James Wolk's scenic design effectively conjures up the needed locations with a remarkable economy of space, and the lit panels (that act as curtains) take full advantage of Matthew McCarthy's flashy lighting scheme. Lou Bird's costumes are eye catching and perfectly suited to the characters, and Lisa Campbell Albert's music direction makes terrific use of the talent onstage.

Stages St. Louis's production of Legally Blonde The Musical is a tasty confection that's sure to please, and it continues at the Robert G. Reim auditorium through August 18, 2013.

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From This Author Chris Gibson