In this summer of our discontent – what with unchecked climate change, racist politics, and mass murders – a bit of cheer in the form of a frothy tale of a privileged white girl who, through dint of smarts, integrity, and cuteness, winds up not only happy but more privileged than ever, can be a welcome diversion. When it is as perfectly and winningly performed as Keegan Theatre’s Legally Blonde, the diversion is a thoroughly delightful one.
Based on a 2001 movie starring Reese Witherspoon, and set in that period, the musical follows the self-empowering journey of Elle Woods (magnetic triple threat Gabriella DeLuca) from boyfriend-obsessed, ditzy sorority girl to Harvard Law School student – her original purpose being reclaiming said boyfriend – to enthusiastic, successful young lawyer.
It takes a village to get her there, and the denizens of the village – especially hairdresser Paulette (the vocally spectacular Janine Sunday), sorority sisters/”Greek chorus”/backup trio (Emily Madden, Selena Clyne-Galindo, and Julia Klavans), and helpful, nerdy, beta-male teaching assistant Emmett (Noah Israel) – all have moments to shine, Sunday’s rendition of “Ireland” being particularly memorable.
To make a plot there must, of course, be conflict, and the primary conflicts are provided by self-important ex-boyfriend Warner (Kaylen Morgan, who sings beautifully his character’s self-important breakup song with Elle, “Serious”) and the demanding, egotistical Professor Callahan (Greg Watkins) – a not-very-nice echo of Professor Kingsfield in The Paper Chase – whose “Blood in the Water” is a sharp-edged evocation of the litigator spirit.
Smaller roles get their moments too, none more riveting than the leadership by Brooke (Amanda Kaplan) of “Whipped Into Shape,” proof that a talented, well-trained ensemble can jump rope in unison and sing at the same time. “Whipped” is only one of a series of high-energy movement numbers choreographed by Ashleigh King, collectively the defining mark of the production’s excellence. The ensemble also gets a Gilbert and Sullivan-like patter chorus, “Gay or European?”, which both embraces and makes fun of gay stereotypes. Dana Nearing’s turn as a hot UPS delivery guy, complete with comic masculine swagger and knowing looks, also merits notice.
The book, by Heather Hach, provides both obvious and subtle comic moments (my personal favorite being a reference by a department store saleswoman to a fragrance named “Subtext”) that add to the blend, well-integrated and paced under the direction of Ricky Drummond, that kept the audience smiling, laughing, and cheering throughout the evening.