Review: Legally Blonde is so much fun it should be illegal

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Elle Woods tries to impress the Harvard admissions office, if somewhat inappropriately.

Legally Blonde – the movie version – was fun for people who like that kind of movie. I am not in that category, so I never saw it. When I learned it spawned a musical, I felt an enthusiastic wave of indifference. But, as is frequently the case when you pre-judge anything based on stereotype, I was totally wrong.

The musical, playing now at Riverside Theatre, was a delight! Now it is unfair to compare this with My Fair Lady, the last musical I saw at Riverside. That show – the story, the music – has stood the test of time. It was a 1956 musical based on a 1913 play; Legally Blonde is a 2007 musical based on a 2001 movie (which was based on a 2001 novel by Amanda Brown).

However, for pure fun, a delight to the eyes and ears, nothing can beat Legally Blonde. Music and lyrics were created by Laurence “Larry” O’Keefe and wife, Nell Benjamin (who also did lyrics for the musical, Mean Girls). The music is new and fresh, sure to delight emerging adult as well as seasoned adult fans. The book, based on the movie, was written by screenwriter Heather Hatch. These three will certainly become household names in the years ahead.

So on to a quick overview of the story: Elle Woods (played by the very talented Kathryn Brunner) is a terminally cute sorority girl, who is mentally discounted because she is – you guessed it – a blonde. Her faux aristocratic boyfriend Warner Huntington III (Sean Thompson) ditches her as he enters Harvard Law School because she is not “serious” enough to meet his elite criteria for a lasting relationship. She is determined to win him back though, so she uses her 4.0 GPA and plenty of chutzpah to also enter Harvard.  Warner, his new girlfriend (brunette, therefore more intelligent),  Vivienne Kensington (Lindsey Bliven), and his Harvard classmates mock her verve and – to them – outlandish behavior. A dressing down by her teacher, Professor Callahan (Paul Schoeffler), leaves her ready to quit school. The exception to this treatment is a teaching assistant, Emmett Forrest (Elliott Styles). He convinces her she is Warner’s equal if she just applies herself, which she does, and “seriously” defeats Warner in a classroom debate. Elle is then given a coveted internship along with Warner.

The second act revolves around a trial and Callahan’s legal team, including Elle, represents the defendant, Brooke Wyndham (Sara Brophy). She is a well known fitness queen accused of murdering her billionaire husband. She refuses to say why she is innocent until Elle discovers they are both sorority sisters. Brooke then confides in Elle, but will not share her secret with the others. So, handcuffed by their own client, Elle looks for a way to seriously defend Brooke. It turns out that a witness for the prosecution (the pool boy, of course) also has a secret, one that Elle manages to expose and discredits his testimony.

Later that day, the celebration over Elle’s handling of her witness is short-lived, because when Professor Callahan is alone with Elle, he forcibly kisses her. She reacts by slapping him. He then fires her. She is ready to quit school, but lo and behold, the accused murderer, Brooke, fires Callahan’s legal team and hires Elle. In a scene that delights audiences, Elle discredits Brooke’s primary accuser and the case is dismissed.

Of course there is eventually a happy ending, but why not? It is a happy show, filled with great music, charming actors, great stagecraft and excellent musicians. It is a show for the young at heart of all ages, and it is playing until May 5.  This is the last show of the 2018-2019 season, so don’t hesitate to buy your tickets before they are legally gone!

Call the Box Office at 773-231-6990 or go online at www.riversidetheatre.com.

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