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Theater review: 'Legally Blonde'

'Legally Blonde: The Musical' explores the law and bad hair days at The Players.

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Law defines human relationships: the limits of self-expression, the obligations we must honor, the boundaries we cannot cross, the justice we can expect, the injustice we cannot commit, and the property we can call our own. Serious issues, all. “Legally Blonde: the Musical” addresses none of them. On the positive side, it’s the Players current production, with a script by Heather Hach and music and lyrics by Lurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin. The source is a movie I haven’t seen based on a book I haven’t read. As to plot and character …

Elle Woods (Miranda Wolf) is a fashion-crazy cheerleader and sorority girl at UCLA. She dresses in bubblegum pink and speaks in a Valley Girl sub-dialect. After graduating, Elle’s expecting a marriage proposal from Warner Huntington III (Ian Cicco), her preppy boyfriend from an old-money East Coast family. Warner dumps her instead, and flies off to Harvard Law School. This real-life Ken finds Elle insufficiently serious, you see. But our real-life Malibu Barbie is a straight-A student with rich parents. To prove her seriousness and win Warner’s love, Elle eventually aces her LSATs, and follows him to Harvard Law School. Where she falls in love with the law and somebody else. Surprise, surprise.

Photo by Cliff Roles
Photo by Cliff Roles

What this all means … Well, let’s save that for later.

Significance aside, it’s a big, sexy romp of a musical. With witty lyrics and dialog. Big laughs. Lively tunes. And a Greek chorus of pulchritudinous cheerleaders.

Dennis Clark directs the sustained horseplay with shameless glee. Clark’s choreography would make the Big Bad Wolf from Tex Avery’s classic cartoons howl. Music director Berry Ayers fills your ears with bouncy tunes that feel like hits. Michael Newton-Brown’s sets walk the line between realism and fantasy. Costume designer Mara DeCourcy straddles So-Cal sparkle and Harvard’s dress-for-success mandate. As to the actors? They happily jump in the musical’s improbable pool.

Nobody’s sleeping on the job.

Wolf’s Elle is a sweet force of nature to be reckoned with. Brian Craft gives understated substance to the nice-guy character of Elle’s once and future boyfriend. Alyssa Goudy’s brassy hairdresser gets the audience howling again and again. As Warner, Cicco successfully manages to be aloof without turning into a stuck-up, yuppie bad guy straight out “Animal House.” But Joshua Taylor’s sleazy criminal law professor perfectly fits that description. Asia Dekle, Natalie Taylor and Khadija Sallet deliver fine portrayals of a workout guru, Warner’s new love interest, and a feminist law student, respectively. Kudos also to Samantha Crawford, Ashley Figlow and Lauren Neilson as the high-energy Greek chorus of cheerleaders/sorority sisters.

Photo by Cliff Roles
Photo by Cliff Roles

The story these talents tell is a great deal of mindless fun. With a few structural problems. The first act takes its sweet time getting off the ground. The second act is strong. There are sidesplitting comic scenes in both acts. (Including a hilarious “Riverdance” parody that comes out of nowhere.) All that, and two lovable dogs.

As to what it all actually means …

This big, fluffy musical revolves a timeless trope. A hero is underestimated and dismissed based on superficial appearances. Accent, skin color, whatever. Our hero shows what they’re made of—and proves their judges wrong. That’s how the story goes. At least according to Joseph Campbell.

Not this time.

Yes, party girl Elle finally knuckles down and studies. Yes, Elle loves her newfound legal competence. But she has no On-the-Road-to-Damascus conversion. And experiences no grand epiphany where the transcendent majesty of the Law shines into the darkness of her empty mind.

Photo by Cliff Roles
Photo by Cliff Roles

I kept waiting for it. Posited as a mere hypothetical, such a profound character transformation would have far-reaching implications. (As Professor Kingsfield might say.) Consider this …

The stereotypical Valley Girl is anti-intellectual—obsessed with superficial fads, appearance and fashion. Following Campbell’s template, Elle should embrace ratiocination. Logic. Inner truth. The essences behind surfaces, and all that. But she doesn’t. This musical’s like sort of the opposite, OK? In fact, Elle’s encyclopedic grasp of fads, appearance and fashion gives her a legal edge. Her intricate knowledge of the chemistry of permanent hairdos and faultless gaydar win the day in the courtroom. In the Kingdom of the Blonde, Elle rules. Like, whatever.

In summation …

If you’re expecting “Paper Chase,” expect to be disappointed. Elle enters Harvard Law School with a mind full of mush. She graduates with a mind full of educated mush.

If you want to have fun without thinking too much, you’ve come to the right place.

Class dismissed.



 “Legally Blonde: The Musical” runs through Dec. 23 at The Players Center for the Performing Arts, 838 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. For more information, call 365-2494 or visit



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