LEGALLY BLONDE: THE MUSICAL stirred up national acclaim back in 2007 when the creators of the show launched an MTV reality series to cast an Elle Woods to replace the actress who originated the role. There are those among us, however, who were predisposed to love the musical based on the 2001 hit movie that solidified Reese Witherspoon’s place in the comedy zeitgeist of the new millenium. (This reviewer is particularly predisposed, being a blonde lawyer who woke up one day in her senior year of college and said, “I think I’ll go to law school today.”)
Playful Theater Productions is the latest local theater group to tackle the challenge of putting on LEGALLY BLONDE: THE MUSICAL at Kelsey Theatre. For anyone who, shockingly, hasn’t seen the movie, this show follows Elle (Kimberly Suskind) as she trails her elitist East Coast boyfriend Warner Huntington III (Peter Petrino) from the sunny campus of UCLA to the hallowed halls of Harvard Law. She gets there only to find that Warner has gotten back together with his prep school girlfriend Vivienne Kensington (Jennifer Davis). However, Elle muddles through and even excels with the help of her mentor Emmett (Kyrus Keenan Westcott) and her low-rent Boston hairstylist Paulette (Jaimie McMillin) – all while staying true to herself.
From the second the overture ends and the cast fills the stage, the energy of the actors is infectious. The company bounces around the set with gusto as it transforms smoothly from the sorority house to the Harvard admissions office, even eventually to a courtroom for a murder trial, where Elle is the only member of her legal team to connect with the fitness guru defendant (Chelsea Lorraine Wargo). The technical aspects of the show are all well done, including the lighting design and Elle’s transformative quick-change in the opening number that was a signature of the Broadway production.
However, as good as the tech is, it’s the cast that deserves the most “snaps” in this production. Every person on stage brings the unflappable spirit that defines this show, no one more than Kimberly Suskind as Elle. Suskind not only looks the part of Elle, she makes the role her own with her ditzy character voice and her overblown emotions. Kyrus Keenan Westcott is appropriately earnest and endearing as Emmett, and you fall in love with him as the show progresses; in contrast, you love to hate Peter Petrino as the smooth-talking ex-boyfriend Warner and Jennifer Davis as his new girlfriend Vivienne, although Davis softens appropriately as she becomes Elle’s friend.
While the entire chorus stays lively throughout, nobody can top the jump-roping belting performance of Chelsea Lorraine Wargot as fitness maven Brooke Wyndham – the audience seemed winded just watching her perform “Whipped Into Shape.” Also worth noting are Elle’s sorority sisters, led by Serena (Jaimie Geddes), Margot (Heather Weise), and Pilar (Maria Aromando). The Delta Nu ladies become Elle’s mentally-conjured Greek chorus at Harvard, and the three lead sisters are fantastic in their roles, from Aromando’s perfectly timed grimaces to Geddes’ gratuitous booty-shaking with “OMG” bloomers beneath her cheer skirt. Keep your eye out as well for a handful of laugh-out-loud supporting performances: Chrissy Hartzell’s one-liners as militant feminist Enid Hoopes, Zach Mazouat’s surprising turn as Carlos during the murder trial, and Chris Kamps’ model strut as Kyle, the UPS man who steals Paulette’s heart.
A rowdy audience and an unruly pit, while at first distracting, seemed to add to the vivacious world of LEGALLY BLONDE – and it deserves “mad props” to all involved in its creation.
LEGALLY BLONDE: THE MUSICAL
by Heather Hach (book) and Laurence O’Keefe (music and lyrics)
Directed by Paula Barson
April 19-28, 2013
at Mercer County Community College
1200 Old Trenton Road
West Windsor, NJ 08550