& Nell Benjamin
Book by Heather Hach
Directed & Choreographer by Marc Robin
At Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire
Silly, campy musical comedy delights audiences
It is no secret that I dislike pop/rock forgettable scores that contain that squeaking whining female singing (think Wicked) and that irritating sing-songy Broadway rock singing style singing from blank non-melodic pop music pastiche. Add large doses of silly plots and stupid situations and I’m ready barf.
Well, in 2009 I saw that National Touring production of Legally Blond in Chicago. My review contained this:
“Legally Blond—The Musical could only appeal to those who enjoyed the film. As a Broadway musical, Legally Blonde is so light-weight that it makes fluff shows seem like Shakespeare. I’m a big fan of musicals and shows like Hairspray and Mama Mia are enjoyable musical treats filled with high energy, terrific dancing and fine voices. It is valid that Broadway musicals can be pure escapist fluff—as long as the show’s production elements contain a bouncy score, cute characters and smart lyrics and creative choreography. Unfortunately, none of these elements are present in Legally Blonde.”
But I must say that if anyone could make Legally Blond work on stage it would be the creative skills that Marc Robin possesses. He succeeded in making Legally Blond into a fun, funny and fast-paced fluff that the opening night audience and my fellow critics seemed to enjoy. Staging fine dances and whip-smart humor and casting terrific players made Robin’s Legally Blond stage worthy. I just can’t get by the goofiness of the show. My guest (who also hated the tour of Legally Blond) loved Marc Robin’s show. She thought the tone that didn’t take itself too serious added humor and honesty to the fluff. That seems to be the reaction of most of the audience at Marriott Theatre. She also thought the intimacy of Marriott’s in–the-round stage helped.
So let me say that since I have a non-mainstream view of Legally Blond and since there is an obvious appeal of this show, let me put on my reporter hat to explain the essence of Legally Blond.
When a blonde sorority queen, Elle Woods (Chelsa Packard) is dumped by her boyfriend, Warner Huntington III (Cole Burden), she decides to follow him to law school to get him back and, once there, learns she has more legal savvy than she ever imagined. We see how Elle is much more that a dumb blond as her basic instincts on human behavior allows her to see things that most people miss. This allows her to defend a fitness queen from a murder charge. Elle also slowly falls for a young attorney, Emmett Forest (David Larsen) who works for Professor Callahan (Gene Weygandt), Elle’s law professor. Add the sage advise from hair stylist, Paulette (Christine Sherrill) – the hit of this production – and the show twists and turns through song, dance and loads of talk-songs rhyming dialogue. Audiences cheer for Chelsea Packard’s Elle and David Larsen’s Emmett.They seemed to enjoy Legally Blond more than I did. Its the style and content I dislike but I must say that Marc Robin did make the show a wonderful, light-weight escapist musical comedy that most folks will enjoy.
So don’t listen to me since I have a hang-up with the pop/rock non-singing sing that prevents me from letting this show into my soul. If you like camp and fun shows, Legally Blond will entertain you. The materiel sure got an expert mounting from Marc Robin.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: January 27, 2012
For more info checkout the Legally Blond page on theatreinchicago.com