‘Legally Blonde’ pretty in a pretty darn good production
HEDY WEISS Theater Criticemail@example.com January 30, 2012 4:22PM
◆ Through April 1
◆ Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire
◆ Tickets, $40-$48
◆ (847) 634-0200;
Updated: March 1, 2012 8:36AM
Omigod, omigod you guys. What we have with “Legally Blonde” is a genuinely old-fashioned musical comedy with a totally awesome, new-fangled pop culture mentality and an energetic rock beat to match. Here is a show that not only can serve as the goofiest of feminist remixes, a fashion magazine sendup, and a Santa Monica-meets–Harvard Square culture wars satire, but one that, surprisingly enough, also gets right to the heart of that hot topic of the moment — class warfare.
Of course no serious jury would find “Legally Blonde” to be anything other than 100% pure, unadulterated fluff. But the blissfully fast-paced, high-energy, let’s-have-fun Marriott Theatre production of this Broadway show (which also happens to be 100 percent better than the national tour that came through Chicago) is Grade-A fluff — blithely directed and ingeniously choreographed by Marc Robin, with bristling musical direction by Ryan T. Nelson. And sometimes that is just what the doctor should order.
Along with a zesty score by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin, and a book by Heather Hach (inspired by the hit 2001 film starring Reese Witherspoon), the show features a young and talented cast led by sassy, athletic Chelsea Packard as Elle Woods, the California-bred “material girl,” loyal sorority sister and marketing major sent into a tailspin when she is dumped by her longtime boyfriend, Warner Huntington III (Cole Burden). As he heads off to Harvard Law School he tells her she lacks the necessary qualities of the congressman he intends to become (he is SO wrong). But not one to be dissed for long, Elle aces her LSAT and follows him to Ivy League land.
Initially the laughingstock in the class taught by demanding Professor Callahan (Gene Weygandt, easily charismatic as a high-profile attorney), Elle buckles down thanks to the mentoring of blue-collar achiever Emmett Forest (expertly played by David Larsen), who advises her to get a chip on her shoulder to succeed. And her gut instincts (as well as her knowledge of human nature and perms) enable her to win a career-changing murder case.
Elle’s other “mentor” is the lovelorn, much-abused working-class manicurist, Paulette (sexy, clarion-voiced Christine Sherrill, who steals the show with each appearance, particularly in “Ireland,” a hilarious sendup of Enya that could get the Celtic Tiger pouncing again).
There also is plenty of pink (and a sobering yet stylish dose of navy blue, courtesy of costume magician Nancy Missimi); two scene-stealing pooches (applause for handler Brian Hoffman and the actors); a fabulous cardio-pumping jump-rope routine led by that bravura beauty, Summer Naomi Smart; Elle’s adorable Greek chorus (Vanessa Panerosa, Alexandra E. Palkovic and Tiffany Topol) is dynamite, and these girls can dish the moves till Oedipus comes home; a gay outing that gives European men a good goosing; an ode to UPS guys; and, by way of Callahan’s blood-in-the water approach to plying his profession, even a nod to that old political philosopher, Thomas Hobbes. Omigod.