Albuquerque Little Theatre’s musical “Legally Blonde” is a rollicking feel-good production in pink. First a 2001 novel, then a popular MGM film, “Legally Blonde” smoothly transitions to the stage. Heather Hach’s script neatly connects the songs – music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin – to a light but loveable musical. Naturally there
Albuquerque Little Theatre’s musical “Legally Blonde” is a rollicking feel-good production in pink. First a 2001 novel, then a popular MGM film, “Legally Blonde” smoothly transitions to the stage. Heather Hach’s script neatly connects the songs – music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin – to a light but loveable musical.
Naturally there are silly stereotypes and scenes, but the writers are painfully aware of them all, and they’re presented with an exaggerated wink. Veteran ALT director Bill Potenziani, music director Shelly Andes and choreographer Peter Bennett have selected and prepared a huge, vastly talented cast who play “Legally Blonde” with spirit and vitality.
The success of the filmic version assures familiarity with the narrative. At UCLA, the girls (women – wink) of Delta Nu sorority are pre-emptively celebrating the impending engagement of chapter president Elle Woods to pre-law dreamboat Warner Huntington III. All jazz hands fanning faces, they sing (“Omigod You Guys”) of the imminent culmination of Elle’s college experience – not her B.A. but her M-R-S.
Wearing a chic new dress with ring finger poised, Elle goes to dinner with Warner; he tells her he’s going to Harvard Law School and needs a more serious wife to support his political aspirations (“Serious”). He needs “less of a Marilyn, more of a Jackie” to play foil to his wannabe JFK.
Elle and her Delta Nu sisters are crushed, but she boldly decides to apply to Harvard Law School herself to pursue her dream of snagging her beau. For her personal essay, she brings along a cadre of cheerleaders who gyrate for the fellows on the admissions committee. They admit her when she reveals – in song form – that she’s doing this for love (“What You Want”). I guess cultural diversity does apply, if the Valley Girl subculture counts.
Ensconced at Harvard, Elle learns Warner has hooked up with former prep school girlfriend Vivienne Kensington. And she’s a brunette! Elle also learns that she’ll have to actually study to satisfy law professor Callahan (“Blood in the Water”). But smitten grad student/teaching assistant Emmett Forrest offers to tutor her. Finding passion outside the confines of Cosmopolitan, Elle finally uses her brain to do more than anchor the roots of those lovely blonde tresses.
I won’t detail Elle’s progress through law school, her friendship with beautician Paulette Bonafonté or her defense of comely fitness guru Brooke Wyndham (or the associated songs). But rest assured that everything works out for the best. I also can’t mention all 25 cast members. The entire ensemble is young, attractive, energetic and athletic. Among the sorority girls, Latasha Whitmore, Rachel Blount and Sage Herrick deserve special mention.
At Harvard proper, I especially enjoyed Samantha Orner and Anouvat Bon Boulom. Angelique Felice is strong as Vivienne – the competitor-who-joins-forces of good – and B. Chris Armijo is powerful as Callahan – the professor-turned-villain. Bryan Durden plays Emmett with a puppyish attachment to Elle that’s endearing. (Two real dogs in the production offer a basis for comparison.)
As Brooke, Erin Allen performs a workout routine that leaves many on stage (and some in the audience) breathless (“Whipped into Shape”). Courtney Awe, as Paulette, comes close to stealing the show with her Broadway-belting rendition of “Ireland.” Her character finds “Ireland” in Kyle, a sexy UPS delivery man with short-shorts and long hair, as embodied by Samuel Glinsmann.
Stafford Douglas plays the boneheaded Warner – a thankless task. Douglas sings well but lacks the charisma of the play’s star Virginia Asbury. As Elle, Asbury is a fair-haired dynamo, singing and dancing with bravado and brio, as the audience roots for her slightly cartoonish character. Asbury bolsters the production with aplomb while keeping her tongue firmly in cheek.
Barry Gaines is a Professor Emeritus at UNM and Administrator of the American Theater Critics Association.