"I don't need backups! I'm going to Harvard!" - Elle Woods
Based on the Reese Witherspoon movie, which was drawn from Amanda Brown’s novel, “Legally Blonde” is the touching journey of Elle Woods, a ditzy blonde who gets dumped by her boyfriend, Warner, just when she thinks he’s going to propose. Warner, who’s heading off to Harvard Law School, wants “somebody classy and not too tacky.” Determined to win him back, the finger-snapping, positive-thinking Elle, who has a 4.0 grade-point average—in fashion merchandising—brushes up her SAT score and lands a spot in Harvard law herself.
So as the giant LED Video Wall Screens winked at us teasingly, beaming with a large, pink, life-size projection of their star in this production—American Idol’s Margie Mays (a contestant in the 17th and 18th season)—and the audience settled into their seats in The Cupcake Theater auditorium at The Hollywood Majestic, I knew that I was in for a very pink-shrouded afternoon.
Directed by Brayden Hade and Christopher Jewell Valentin, this production’s spectacular run from April 1st through June 5th is a visual treat; each scene is a showy, vivid, riot of color (mostly pink), lionizing a spirited, effervescent young woman who uses academia as a springboard to romance.
Headlined by Ms. Mays as the bubbly, blonde bombshell Elle Woods, and boasting a spunky, talented ensemble (that seem to drink a lot of Red Bull), the musical will take you from the sorority house, to Harvard, to the halls of justice with women’s brightest heroine.
Elle’s a Gemini with a double Capricorn moon, a Sigma Sweetheart, president of Delta Nu sorority and founded the charity “Shop for a Cause.” You might not buy her rapid rise to attorney extraordinaire, but you’re always rooting for this “believe in yourself” Malibu Barbie as she tackles stereotypes, preppy snobs and lecherous tutors in pursuit of her dreams. Margie Mays captures Elle’s innate sweetness and adorable charm perfectly and has a phenomenal soprano voice with the ability to pull off a lot of quick-witted humor.
It’s almost impossible to believe MGM’s “Legally Blonde” came out 21 years ago. It was 2001 when Elle Woods decided she was going to try to win back the man who dumped her by attending law school with him at Harvard. Yes, we all know it's much harder for the rest of us to get into Harvard Law School than it is for the charmed Elle Woods, but to ask her to live by the same laws of physics as the rest of us would rob the show of its sparkle.
So, if you want a realistic law school environment, look elsewhere. This show is all about Elle, her designer duds, her love of manicures, her bonhomie and spunk and her "growth" as a person. “If I’d observed all the rules, I would never have gotten anywhere!” – Marilyn Monroe.
The golden-voiced, charmingly caddish Warner (Thomas Hollow) sees the sparkle, but it's not enough. As the scion of a wealthy East Coast family, he ditches sorority queen Elle just when she thinks he’s going to propose, because he's headed to college and needs a more serious girlfriend. "I need a Jackie, not a Marilyn," he tells the aghast Elle. Dumped but not completely down, she decides she'll go to Harvard, too. I mean, like, how hard could it be to get in, right?
Bowled over by her application, and with the contingent 4.0 GPA in her major (fashion merchandising) in question, Harvard gets more than it bargains for when she decides to forgo the required essay and do a very pink flash mob razzle-dazzle essay in song bursting into the admission offices backed by her squad of cheerleaders. She is accepted to the ivy halls after revealing she is motivated by love ("What You Want"). “Pink is my signature color,” she perkily pronounces.
In the beginning, Elle’s initial preoccupation in winning Warner back hinders her from devoting time to study, but mostly she is distracted by his new fiancee, Vivian (Renee Wylder), a smart, sassy overachiever-type law student. Elle is humiliated in class on her first day, and scorned by her classmates.
Luckily, with much help from new friend Emmett Forrest, a licensed attorney and assistant to Professor Callahan (Christopher Robert Smith), personified by the always graceful Max DeLoach, she’ll get down to business. She plans to nab a prestigious law internship with the prickly Callahan. His version of “Blood in the Water” with the ensemble was peerless. Later, Emmett not only becomes her mentor/tutor, but he eventually falls for her, expressing his silken-voiced love in the signature song, “Legally Blonde.” The men’s store scene in Act 2 where Emmett is refashioned with a new raging suit by Elle, replacing his raveled schmattes and worn corduroys, was a runaway success with the number, “Take It Like a Man.”
Her manicurist Paulette, becomes her only other new friend, who she runs to for solace. Paulette (played by the very talented Renee Cohen) is hilarious, brash, happy and has a style all of her own as she commiserates with Elle over their lost loves. Elle teaches Paulette how to get a man with “Bend and Snap,” a bend-at-the-waist-stick-out-your-fanny dance routine that should probably come with a disclaimer if you’re over 40. One of the funnier moments in the show is when Paulette falls for Kyle, the UPS guy (the brawny Kolt Andrew) and she puts her new-found skill to good use.
Other stand-outs include the militant/activist law school student Enid, played by Ariana George, who also doubles as Veronica; frat-boy Grandmaster Chad, depicted by Jonathon Flemmings; and Megan Stys as Brooke, a beautifully opulent Deltu Nu sorority sister who is accused of murdering her wealthy husband. Ms. Stys’ athleticism and simultaneous vocal ability is joyously baffling in her high energy, “Whipped into Shape,” spotlighting a multi-cast of amazingly dexterous rope-jumpers, who exhibited exact timing while belting out their ballad, and was a mouth-opening wonder of achievement.
The court room trial segment, however, which featured strong vocals from the entire company is one of the most uproarious moments in the show and a real work of art. Hinging on Elle’s “gaydar abilities,” which requires outing a gay man in court in order to win a case, the scene was topped off with the controversial show centerpiece, “There! Right There!,” producing rolling in the aisles laughter. Thomas Hollow’s Warner also brings a terrific baritone quality to “Serious,” Other notable numbers were “Ireland,” “So Much Better,” and “Omigod You Guys,” accompanied by incredible choreography. Shani Hamilton is the Dance Captain.
In this deep talent pool, the 21-person cast is top-tier, with almost half supporting the show as ensemble while doubling in additional roles. The sorority sisters (Erika Cruz, Joelle Tshudy and Shani Hamilton), who also play the Greek Chorus, all look like they are fresh out of central casting for cheerleaders; Kolt Andrew skillfully channels multiple characters, including Kyle B. O’Boyle, Dewey and Lowell; Chloe Haven plays both Chutney Wyndam and Kate; and Haley Wolff is Leilani and swings Margot, Serena and Pilar.
Jacqueline Dennis characterizes the judge and store clerks; Annie Claire Hudson plays Elle’s Mom, Whitney, Courtney and the D.A.; and Andreas Pantazis is amazing as would-be king, Padamadan, and Nikos. Jason Straub embodies Pforzheimer, and Brandon Kallen is Elle’s golfing Dad, Winthrop and the Guard. Kristen Daniels plays Gaelen, Dana, a Perfume Girl, and a bookish client, while swinging Brooke, Vivian and Kate.
In the end, I am happy to say that my pink-shrouded anticipation was quite fulfilled. In fact, the show continued to get better by the minute. Put simply, "Legally Blonde, The Musical" was quite engrossing. The cast is passionate, the action ceaseless, the scenes well executed, the vocals spot-on, and from chorus lines to crooning to whimsical ballads, the jokes never fell flat. Sometimes sweet, sometimes snide, and often delightfully bizarre—by the middle, you are having so much fun you’re singing along right in your seat. Flossing between songs is strongly recommended.
LEGALLY BLONDE THE MUSICAL, Performing April 1st through June 5th; Music and Lyrics by LAURENCE O’KEEFE and NEIL BENJAMIN; Book by HEATHER HACH; Based on the novel by AMANDA BROWN and the MGM motion picture; Directed by BRAYDEN HADE and CHRISTOPHER JEWELL VALENTIN; Music Director DYLAN PRICE; Choreography by JONATHON FLEMMINGS, SHANI HAMILTON AND REHYAN RIVERA; Production Design by BRAYDEN HADE; Lighting Design by JAMES G. SMITH III; Sound Design by MARCOS RODRIGUEZ; Costumes and Wigs by JACQUELINE DENNIS and RENEE WYLDER; Stage Manager is STEPHANIE MAYER; Assistant Stage Manager is MATHEW NOAH; Produced by MICHAEL PETTENATO.
WITH: MARGIE MAYS, MAX DELOACH, RENEE COHEN, CHRISTOPHER ROBERT SMITH, THOMAS HOLLOW, RENEE WYLDER, MEGAN STYS, SHANI HAMILTON, ERIKA CRUZ, JOELLE TSHUDY, CHLOE HAVEN, HALEY WOLFF, KRISTEN DANIELS, ANNIE CLAIRE HUDSON, ARIANA GEORGE, JONATHAN BLAKE FLEMMINGS, ANDREAS PANTZATIS, JACQUELINE DENNIS, BRANDON KALLEN, KOLT ANDREW AND JASON STRAUB. THE TWO CUTE MECHANICAL DOGS PLAY THEMSELVES.
Duration: approx. 3 hours including a 15-minute intermission. Fridays: 8 p.m., Saturdays: 2 p.m. & 7 p.m., Sundays: 2 p.m. Please arrive 30 minutes before the start of the show, late entry is not permitted. Location: The Hollywood Majestic. For Tickets and further information, please visit: www.hollywoodmajestic.com
Arts & Entertainment Reviewer
The Show Report