News Column

Comedy rules in 'Legally Blonde'

July 26, 2013

YellowBrix

July 26--With its title, "Legally Blonde, The Musical" goes out of its way to remind you what kind of show it is. But what the title ought to be is "Legally Blonde, The Musical Comedy." That way you'd know just what to expect from the entertaining production that just opened at Stages St. Louis.

The show follows Elle Woods from her California sorority house to Harvard Law, which she enters to pursue the jerk who dumped her. Forced at last to use her mind, Elle discovers that she doesn't need him, that she's a smart woman and that she doesn't have to sacrifice any part of herself to be her best self. In fact, it's the only way that she will be.

As Elle, Michelle London looks and sounds just right (especially when she startles herself with legal insights). Ben Nordstrom is just as appealing as Emmett Forrest, the young lawyer who mentors her. Needless to say, they end up together -- just look at their last names. They're as coordinated as Elle's accessories.

London, Nordstrom and others in the company make the most of the lively choreography, originally by Jerry Mitchell and recreated here by Rusty Mowery. The show's famous jump-rope dance remains a highlight, led by Nicolette Hart as a fitness guru accused of murder. As she leads her fellow prisoners through their paces, you have to think, some women would pay plenty to be locked up with that kind of regimen.

Unlike such musicals as "South Pacific" and "Les Miserables" (which both just played the Muny) or "My Fair Lady" (the next Stages show, opening Sept. 6), "Legally Blonde" is not a triumph of the songwriters' art. The married team who created the music and lyrics, Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin, managed thin, perfunctory efforts for "musical theater" songs -- the ones that reveal feelings or character.

But they put their heart -- or their funnybone -- into terrific comedy numbers. Elle's sorority sisters (led by Melinda Cowan, Julia Johanos and Sarah Rolleston) make a bright "Greek chorus," and Heather Jane Rolff just about steals the show as Elle's hairdresser.

In a full-hearted, full-throated treatment of "Ireland," she shares a fantasy involving a red-headed sailor. One day, she hopes, they will dance "without moving our arms." ("Riverdance" satire never gets old, does it?) Rolff gives a sensational performance, and when her dream man (the engaging Scott Guthrie) shows up with a delivery, you just want to cheer them along.

Director Michael Hamilton, set designer James Wolk and lighting designer Matthew McCarthy join forces to give "Legally Blonde" plenty of color and style. Like Elle herself, "Legally Blonde" is cute and small. But it has plenty of charm.

{&rule}'Legally Blonde, The Musical'

When --Through Aug. 18

Where --Robert J. Reim Theatre, Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road

How much --$20-$55

More info --314-821-2407; stagesstlouis.org

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(c)2013 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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