LEGALLY BLONDE: THE MUSICAL
Align Entertainment, Michael J Fox Theatre, until February 17th
Photo: Anita Alberto
My Two Cents
By Lillian Jasper
You know what you’re getting going in to Legally Blonde: The Musical. Align Entertainment’s production isn’t high art, but it’s not meant to be. It’s crowd-pleasing, energetic fun with a huge cast of tireless performers.
The simple story centres on Elle Woods - a pop culture icon thanks to Reese Witherspoon’s performance in the 2001 film upon which the musical is based. She’s a sorority queen at UCLA who follows her ex-boyfriend to Harvard Law in the hopes of winning him back. Once at Harvard, she continually surprises herself and those around her with her intelligence and positive attitude.
As Elle, Julia Ullrich only just misses the mark. Her voice is strong and she’s a confident performer, but I wanted to see more vulnerability. There is no drama if we know Elle can’t fail. However, Ullrich is well-matched with Victor Hunter (always delightful) as Emmett. The honest progression of their mutually-respectful relationship is the show’s ultimate strength, capped with a truly modern and hilarious ending. Jenn Suratos takes beautician Paulette to new heights with her no-nonsense attitude and a soaring rendition of the somewhat random ballad “Ireland”. Her scenes allow us a breather from the constant, incredibly peppy parade that is the rest of the show.
Overall, the tunes aren’t all that memorable, but the entire cast is so relentlessly exuberant I can’t help but be impressed (someone’s been drinking Elle’s Red Bulls!). The Act 2 opening, “Whipped Into Shape” is an unmatched feat of stamina - Laura Cowan as Brooke manages to sing well while simultaneously skipping rope. My hat’s off to them all. The band is solid, too, though overall the volume seemed louder than necessary. I’ve seen plenty of musicals and I don’t think in this instance it needed to be quite so abrasive.
I loved Robert Sondergaard’s lighting - it’s clever and informed by the music. Nicol Spinola’s choreography is fun and modern, superbly executed by the cast, though sometimes seemed a little too sexy for a “family-friendly” show. There’s also a few jokes that seem more than little dated. Regardless, it’s still an empowering story about a woman who discovers that her worth is not defined by her chosen mate. It’s not as shallow as it appears at first sight - Elle is certainly beautiful, but she’s also intelligent and resourceful, and sets a positive example by always being true to herself.
If you like fun, poppy musicals, Legally Blonde everything you could ask for, plus it has a strong message for young women. Also, puppies!