With many films of the past and nearly present making their debuts on and off Broadway, there are some that really don’t work as musicals, and some that really do. "Legally Blonde The Musical" is such a film that has made it to the stage and does so with a bang.
Based on a novel by Amanda Brown and a hit 2001 movie starring Reese Witherspoon, with music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin, this musical initially opened on Broadway in 2007 to mixed reviews but much media attention. A live recording, broadcast on MTV and a reality show about the casting process were soon to follow.
Ocean State Theater Company’s latest offering is a fun and flamboyant production. Elle Woods (Alyssa Gorgone) is a UCLA sorority girl who’s got everything; including a great fiancée Warner Huntington III (Marc Thomas Koeck.) But wait, Warner thinks she’s not serious enough to marry, since he’s headed to Harvard Law School and breaks up with her.
At first, Elle is devastated, and despite the attempts of her three best friends Margot (Caroline Bateson) Serena (Arielle Kook) and Pilar (Jenica Reed) to console her, she locks herself away for days. A flash of insight convinces her that she can follow her ex to Harvard and win him back, if she "seriously" enrolls at the Ivy League school.
The rest of the story is standard comedic fare; Elle meets the snobs of her new school who clearly disapprove of her. Emmet (Adam Ryan Tackett) a teaching assistant, Vivienne (Laura Scherf) Warner’s new fiancée, Professor Callahan (Christopher Swan) who’s clearly attracted to Elle and makes advances at her and Enid (Sarah Pierce) another classmate.
Following a series of disappointing classroom and campus experiences Elle meets Paulette (Nicole Paloma Sarro) a hairdresser with terrible taste in men. They bond and compare notes; Elle helps Paulette retrieve her dog from her ex-husband using her new law skills. Elle’s journey is a light, giddy affair, it nevertheless works well in this show. The musical numbers range from silly "Omigod You Guys" and "Ireland" to downright showstoppers, "Whipped Into Shape" and "Take It Like A Man."
Gorgone is perfectly cast as Elle Woods. Her outward pretty blonde girl looks and great vocal talents are a must for this role, but she easily shows the character’s intelligence and spunk. Koeck’s Warner is good looks and snobbery; he turns in a solid performance. Our three sorority girls are well cast, and Tackett as Emmet has real chemistry with Gorgone.
Swan, whom we’ve seen in other roles at this venue, shows us again his versatility. Sarro’s Paulette and Michael J. Borges’ Kyle almost steal the show as the amorous beautician and the object of her affection. Their performances are fun but never over-the-top. The ensemble is truly committed to making the show work, and work very well it does.
Russell Garrett takes the reins as director/choreographer and clearly knows his stuff, the pace of the show is energetic and never stalls. As musical director Justin P. Cowan utilizes his small orchestra well, bringing us full blown sound and the production is all the better for it.
"Legally Blonde The Musical" is definitely a case where the show captures the fluff of the original film, never taking itself seriously, but keeping us entertained and humming those tunes long after the music dies down.