I must confess I went to see Legally Blonde – currently on tour, now playing at the Pantages Theatre – with great trepidation. I remembered the highly improbable story of a blonde bimbo who ends up graduating from Harvard Law School and winning a very important case in the process. I was worried about this being a role model for girls. Opening night I saw maybe a thousand teens, many dressed in pink, coming to the theatre to witness the musical. Where did they all come from?
Then I remembered that the show had played on MTV, with commercials and weird camera work, and was only seen once. There was also the reality show to cast Elle, the title character. Between the two events, an enormous built-in fan base for the show had developed, which was evident opening night from all the whoops and hollers coming from the audience.
Finally I realized that I was being taken in too, in a way. Legally Blonde is a thoroughly entertaining musical with the appeal of Wicked for young girls and women, with its theme of the underdog making good.
The music itself, by Lawrence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin, was not particularly memorable, though several songs stood out: “There, Right There,” a hilarious song about “gaydar”; “Omigod You Guys,” an anthem to airheads; and “Legally Blonde,” though I am not exactly sure what that means beyond that she’s a natural blonde and a lawyer. The choreography and direction by Jerry Mitchell were excellent, proving that Hairspray wasn’t just a flash in the pan for this choreographer turned director. He surrounded himself with a creative team that he knew: David Rockwell did the sets (Hairspray), Kenneth Posner the lights (Hairspray and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels), Acme Sound Partners the sound design (Never Gonna Dance), and David Brian Brown the wigs (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels).
The cast was uniformly good, with Becky Gulsvig (runner-up on the reality show) playing Elle Woods and two more contestants playing her best friends. D. B. Bonds was a charming leading man and grounded the whole affair. Ken Land was suitably slimy as Professor Callahan. Jeff McLean played Elle’s snobby boyfriend whom she is trying so desperately to please until she discovers she doesn’t have to please anyone. Well, she pleased me, as did the entire show.
Legally Blonde plays at the Pantages Theatre until September 6th.