Legally Blonde - The Musical opened at Workshop Theatre on Friday night, and it was a performance that Gloria Steinem, Helen Gurley Brown, and every other feminist would have proudly supported. Even if you have not seen the movie which this musical is based on, or are not a fan, this production will have you seeing blonde on your way out the door.
The play tells the story of Elle (wonderfully portrayed by Giulia Marie Dalbec), a Malibu blonde whose obsession with pink, fashion, and everything trendy borders on the sickeningly stereotypical. After graduating from UCLA, where she was a proud member of the Delta Nu sorority, she thinks her boyfriend, Warner (Daniel Gainey), is going to propose, sealing her fate as a rich lawyer’s wife. However, he has different plans, and decides she’s not the right fit for his future as a prominent lawyer and senator. So, he goes off to Harvard Law, and Elle has to re-think her master plan. Here is where the feminist mystique gets lost, due to the fact that Elle decides to study, study, and study to also get into Harvard, all for the sake of getting her man back. When she arrives, Elle has to face up to the fact that law school isn’t the pink parade that she thought it would be, and she has to get to work. By sheer movie and musical magic, she runs into Warner, and discovers that he has a new girlfriend, Vivienne (Shelby Sessler) who is much more suited to the political power couple from Warner’s dreams. Faced with the reality of losing her man, Elle decides to throw herself into her studies with the help of a law class teaching assistant, Emmett (Mark Ziegler). Unlike Elle, Emmett comes from a humble background where his single mother worked and slaved to make sure he could attend law school. Emmett even works three jobs while at school to make ends meet. Elle enrolls in a law class run by a ruthless law professor named Callahan, where Emmett is the assistant and both Warner and Vivienne are in class, too. Callahan announces that he will accept four students as interns at his very prestigious firm based on their performance.
Emmett decides to take Elle under his wing and make her work through holidays to get that internship. This pays off when she is asked to join Callahan’s legal team in a high profile case defending a gorgeous blonde workout guru accused of killing her much older husband. Unfortunately, Elle comes face to face (literally) with Callahan’s true intentions when he tries to kiss her, and sexually harasses her. In the end, Elle saves the case and the day, she and Emmett get together, and she moves past Warner and Vivienne. Overall, it follows the rule of the well-written plot with all the stages in place – exposition, rising action, climax, denouement, and resolution. It’s a fun ride, especially with some of the musical numbers. The most notable numbers are “What You Want,” Blood in the Water,” “Bend and Snap,” and “Gay or European.” As I implied in the title, this show is carried by the female roles. The “chorus” comprised of Elle’s friends from UCLA help keep the story moving with their unyielding energy. Besides Giulia Marie Dalbec, who truly does a phenomenal job, other standout performances are Kathy Milliron as Paulette and Sarah Farra as Brooke.
Unfortunately, the male actors in the show couldn’t quite hold up their end of the bargain. Although they had wonderful singing voices, for the most part there was simply no chemistry between them and Elle. In the role of Emmett, Mark Ziegler just didn’t have the edge as the blue-collar, working student struggling to get through school to provide the dichotomy to Elle’s more spoiled, rich girl persona. He came off more as the best friend or nice guy who finishes last, which was off-putting, since he wins Elle in the end. As Warner, Daniel Gainey played the part with a nice level of soft sincerity, but there was a certain schmarmy-ness missing from his opportunistic, ladder-climbing character. Finally, Hunter Boyle did bring a lot of life to the role of Callahan, which made the song “Blood in the Water” so enjoyable. However, the very important moment of sexual harassment when he makes a move on Elle seemed glossed over, just lying there on the stage. Also, one slight technical note – the sound designer should really look into putting microphones above or on the catwalk above the set for the chorus. They open the show, and I couldn’t hear or understand them at all.
Overall, I recommend Legally Blonde - The Musical to Columbia theatre-goers. It’s a high energy, fun, and appealing show that will have you humming the songs on the way home. Also, for all you animal lovers, there are two very cute and apparently well-trained dogs in the production.
Legally Blonde - The Musical runs through September 29th at Workshop Theatre, 1136 Bull St. Showtimes are at 8:00 p.m. except a September 23rd matinee at 3:00 p.m. Call the box office at (803) 799-6551 for reservations between noon and 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $22 for adults, $20 for senior citizens and military, $16 for students, and $12 for children under 12.
Jasper - The Word on Columbia Arts welcomes Stephen Ingle to our roster of theatre critics. After living in Los Angeles for 15 years where he worked as an actor, writer, producer, and stand-up comic, Stephen returned to his roots in Columbia, SC. Having just received his Masters of Arts in Teaching in Theatre Education from USC, he is currently teaching Theatre in the Richland One School District.