I have never seen the movie Legally Blonde. As a “chick flick” it was clearly not something that was targeted at me, and I had no desire to seek it out. I’m not a fan of Reece Witherspoon. Naturally, I felt somewhat dubious about the notion of a musical theater version of it. Happily, Haywood Arts Regional Theatre’s production is visually spectacular and a charming show.
In the playbill’s director’s notes, Mark Jones admits that Legally Blonde is one of his favorite movies. His affection for the material is apparent onstage. The show calls for multiple locations and scene changes. Jones enlists the full company to make the transitions happen seamlessly, allowing the show to maintain a brisk momentum. As director, Jones admits he spent almost as much time choreographing the set changes as he did the scenes themselves, in order to keep the show light and fast.
This is the saga of Elle Wood, the title blonde, who is dumped by her Harvard boyfriend, then gets into Harvard law school herself to win him back. It seems like a trifle of a tale. But comical lyrics, an exuberant cast and swirling choreography turn a predictable plot into an enjoyable and engaging few hours at the theater. It all hinges on lead actress Taylor Aldrich, who is the epitome of charm. Singing, dancing and inhabiting the role effortlessly, her enthusiasm is contagious. Throughout her journey, Elle is followed by a Greek chorus of her sorority sisters (lead by Calintha Briggs, Emily Warren and Candice Owen), who she imagines guiding her with their wisdom. Some of the most energetic songs feature this large group, including the decidedly sorority-themed “Daughters Of Delta Nu” and “Omigod You Guys.”
Luke Haynes plays Warren, Elle’s ex-boyfriend. He is likable enough, but it is obvious from the outset that he is wrong for Elle, though she is the only one who can not see it. Complicating Elle’s plan to win Warren back is his new girlfriend, Vivienne. Sarah Fowler infuses that role with touches of villainy, but also comes off as somewhat sympathetic, caught in a love triangle not of her making. Logan Marks, as Emmett, is Elle’s Mr. Right, though she can only see him as a friend. She helps him find his fashion sense and he helps her to believe in herself.
In a strong supporting cast, Kristen Hedberg’s Paulette runs a local salon, and her friendship with Elle leads them both overcome obstacles in their lives, inspiring each other. Hedberg has some great moments, performing both with a dog (played by Bailey) recovered from her deadbeat ex, and with Charlie Cannon’s portrayal of a muscular UPS delivery person. Cannon steals the show when he is onstage, playing the dim but dashing deliver man who stops traffic as he arrives with a large package. Alexia Lauren, playing exercise video guru Brooke Wyndham, gives an energetic performance. She sings “Whipped Into Shape” and dances her way effortlessly through an exhausting workout routine.
It’s Wyndham’s trial for murdering her much older husband that is the central focus of act 2. She bonds with Elle, who endeavors to overcome expectations and win the trial.
WHAT: Legally Blonde
WHERE: Haywood Arts Regional Theatre, harttheatre.com
WHEN: Through Sunday, June 12. Thursdays to Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. $9-$26