Brooke Bauersfeld and Sassy and Kiki in Legally Blonde.
Photo courtesy Derby Dinner Playhouse.
Legally Blonde, the Musical
Music & Lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe & Nell Benjamin
Book by Heather Hach
Directed by Lee Buckholz
Review by Annette Skaggs
Entire contents copyright © 2016 Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.
Full disclosure: before attending this performance, I didn’t know anything about anything about Legally Blonde, other than the premise of the movie and, presumably, the musical. As someone who actually studied their brains to mush preparing for the LSAT, the thought of a woman who was in school to be popular and earn her “MRS” degree magically getting into Harvard Law just didn’t grab me. It wasn’t until a friend of mine saw the musical on Broadway and raved about it that I began to think differently. A little escapism is an essential part of theater.
Delta Nu sorority President Elle Woods is cute, clever, sassy, and blonde. In the opening song, “Omigod You Guys,” sung by Elle and her fellow sorority sisters, we learn that a marriage proposal by Elle’s boyfriend Warner is assuredly imminent — only to find that Warner has his eyes set on Harvard Law School and becoming the next John F. Kennedy without her. Heartbroken, Elle decides that she will go to Harvard, too, because of her love for Warner. Predictably, she gets admitted — not in the usual way, but via a cheerleading squad’s personal testament, complete with somersaults and backflips. While at Harvard she meets a young up-and-comer, Emmett, who, having clawed his way to the top, assists her in navigating the challenging school. Along the way, Elle finds herself with the help of Emmett and her new friend Paulette, a hairstylist.
Derby Dinner Playhouse always does a great job of making the most of a small space, and Legally Blonde is no exception. When the customary pre-performance recording asks the audience to keep the aisles and stairwells clear, it does so for a reason: actors came from all corners of the performance space and cover every inch of available stage area. This was one of the larger casts I have seen at DDP, navigating tumbling passes, tightly choreographed dances, and a jump-rope session.
As “feel good” as this show is, it is certainly more appropriate for the over-13 crowd, because some strong language is used and sexual suggestion is rampant. One of the best scenes of the evening is the introduction of Kyle the delivery man (Clayton Bliss), who presents a package to Paulette at her hair salon. Sara King stole the show with her portrayal of Paulette. As I watched, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities of this character to another Paulette in movie-dom, Lorna Luft in Grease 2. Intended or happy accident, I’m not sure, but all around very entertaining.
Brooke Bauersfeld certainly embodied the role of Elle; she was delightfully perky and bright in all the right places. Billy Casey as Warner dripped with stereotypical preppy brattiness, as did Warner’s female counterpart, Vivienne (Jillian Prefach). Michael Luongo was charming and delightful as Elle’s friend and developing love interest, Emmett. The ensemble cast dazzled with their dancing and gymnastic skills but lacked in solid singing. The sorority girls were often off key and, in a word, screechy. Brian Bowman’s Professor Callahan had just the right amount of cocky arrogance, not to mention an outstanding voice.
Of course, I would be remiss to not mention two stars that made the audience ooh and ahh every time they took the stage: Elle’s Chihuahua, Bruiser, played by Kiki; and Paulette’s adorable Bulldog, Rufus, played by Paisley.
In a nutshell, Legally Blonde was a fun little romp with enjoyable music and a story of self-realization and redemption. An ovation certainly goes to the design team for fantastic costumes and clever set designs that fit into many scenes. Also, an ovation to Scott Bradley and his orchestra for their contribution: theses songs are not as simple as they seem.
I can’t wait for the next show, Derby Dinner — there is a reason you have been around for more than 60 years!
Legally Blonde, The Musical
April 6 – May 15, 2016
Derby Dinner Playhouse
525 Marriott Drive
Clarksville, IN 47129
Annette Skaggs is heavily involved as an arts advocate here in Louisville. She is a freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe and in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York, and, of course, Louisville. Aside from her singing career, she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York City Opera, and Northwestern University. Her knowledge and expertise have developed over the course of 25+ years’ experience in the classical arts.