The chances of Legally Blonde: The Musical showing up on anyone’s list of “great American musicals” are as likely as the chances of a UCLA sorority president with a bachelor’s in fashion merchandising really being admitted to Harvard Law School.
Based on the 2001 novel by Amanda Brown and film starring Reese Witherspoon, it’s the theatrical equivalent of cotton candy—colorful and sweet, but a bit lightweight. The Marin Musical Theatre Company is running a production through July 28.
Elle Woods (Claudia Shapiro) was dumped by her lawyer-to-be boyfriend Warner (Jeremy Kaplan) and does what any red-blooded American girl would do—she decides to follow him to law school and win him back. She crams for the LSAT, brings a bunch of cheerleaders to her Harvard interview and wins admission after she explains love brought her there.
Despite being treated like a laughingstock, Elle finds a friend in teaching assistant Emmett Forrest (Tyler Gable). With his help, she winds up on a legal team headed by stern Professor Callahan (Nelson Brown) as he defends exercise queen Brooke Wyndham (Alison Peltz) against a murder charge.
Will Elle pull a Perry Mason and make a prosecution witness crack under cross-examination? More importantly, will she succeed in winning Warner back, or will she find her soul mate in the sensitive Emmett? The answers are pretty (in pink) obvious.
Director Jenny Boynton’s energetic cast of young folk and stage veterans carries the light load. Shapiro successfully blends her character’s cheerful optimism with her vulnerability, though one wonders what she ever saw in the shallow Warner. Gable is nicely understated as the one person at Harvard who sees Elle’s potential, and more.
A subplot involving a lovelorn hairdresser (Dani Innocenti Beem), her ex (Victor Schutz), their dog Rufus (Molly Malone Wesley Dog) and a UPS driver (Schutz again) provides some of the show’s biggest laughs.
Laughs also arrive via the Laurence O’Keefe-and-Nell Benjamin score with “There! Right There!” which attempts to musically answer the question of a key witness’s orientation—is he gay or European? It was one of the few ensemble numbers with audible lyrics, as Jeff Paul and the orchestra regularly overpowered the vocals. Sound design is not this show’s strong suit.
Like a trip to the county fair, Legally Blonde: The Musical provides a pleasant summer evening of fun and entertainment.