Elle’s a-poppin’ in ‘Legally Blonde,’ a musical that’s retro and rolls with it
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I get it. You’re too smart for “Legally Blonde.” I mean, real talk: The story of a shopping-obsessed, blonde sorority sister who dresses like Pepto Bismol and follows some stupid guy all the way across the country because her only goal in life is to get him to marry her? “I Dream of Jeannie” reruns have more heft. Also, the titular lead is from Malibu. Like Barbie. And Mel Gibson.
When: Through Oct. 21
Where: Paramount Aurora, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora
Run time: 2 hours, 30 minutes, including one intermission
I am here to tell you not to judge a blonde by its cover. The saga of rich, white, pink-clad Elle Woods (Casey Shuler) and her unlikely foray into Harvard Law School actually has both substance and cheek. Directed to amusing impact by Trent Stork, it also embraces the retro-ridiculousness inherent to a plot about a designer-obsessed girl who wants nothing more in life than a boy. As you might expect, the plot shows Elle coming into the realization that she actually wants more than a boy. Despite early indications to the contrary, Elle is a master of far more than the perfect bend-and-snap.
The musical from composer-lyricists Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin and book writer Heather Hach starts with the sensibility of a gaggle of sorority sisters during rush week. It ends with the same, but instead of focusing on rush week, Delta Nu’s brightest star is poised to pass the bar and get a clerking gig with Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill or maybe somebody like Alan Dershowitz.
Let’s talk about the climactic courtroom scene, shall we? Here, Woods is part of a team of law students defending fitness queen Brooke Wyndham (Jenna Coker Jones, who has an extraordinary number involving neon jump ropes). The verdict for Brooke, accused of murdering her much-older husband, rests on whether her pool boy Nikos (Anthony Sullivan Jr.) is gay or European. There is an exegesis, in song, parsing the similarities between the two.
Just when the court seems to have reached peak ridiculousness, Yando Lopez pops from the jury box, sporting a magnificent tenor, a tight, tiny floral romper and an Isadora Duncan scarf. It’s a “j’accuse” moment for the ages and if you are wearing a retainer you should be careful because you might spit it out on account of laughing so hard. The scene also involves one of the best death drops (thanks Anthony Sullivan Jr.!) you’ll see outside a lip sync finale at the Miss Continental Pageant.
Then there’s the Kyle, the UPS man (James Doherty), who gives new meaning to the phrase “package delivery.” Kyle is also an Irish step dancer. As the besotted Paulette (a fabulous Sophie Grimm) dreamily notes, Kyle could be a porn star. Their Irish Dance pas de deux manages to convey both Kyle’s Celtic heritage and his porn starishness, all while remaining wholesome enough for “Legally Blonde’s” target tween demographic.
If none of that wins you over, there is not one but two really cute dogs in “Legally Blonde.” And not walk-on role dogs either. Dogs who are actual characters.
At the heart of the whole gaudy, noisy affair is Shuler’s Elle, who winningly shows that being as well dressed as Barbie and being smart are not mutually exclusive. Shuler has a soaring voice that powers yearning ballads (“Find My Way”) and bring-the-party songs (“Bend and Snap”) with equal verve. Her Greek chorus of sorority sisters (led by Kyrie Courter, Lucy Godinez and Sara Reinecke) are a hoot. And as the feckless boyfriend Warner Huntington III, Tyler Lain is like the unholy offspring of a lesser character from “Less than Zero.” He’s that guy who doesn’t just wear skinny jeans, he wears skinny capri jeans. Gross. (Also: nice work by costume designer Theresa Ham.)
Set designer Jeffrey D. Kmiec takes the action from Malibu to Harvard with a quartet of massive pillars that call to mind the Lincoln Memorial and ancient Greece. They make a fine background for Trent Stork’s choreography (with an assist from co-choreographer Megan Farley), which veers from girls-gone-wild to early Michael Flatley.
Like Elle Woods, “Legally Blonde” has no pretensions. And omigodyouguys, you shouldn’t either.
Catey Sullivan is a local freelance writer.