Review: “Legally Blonde: the Musical” in Novato

The chances of Legally Blonde showing up on anyone’s list of ‘great American musicals’ are as likely as the chances of a UCLA sorority President with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fashion Merchandising really being admitted to Harvard Law School.  

Based on the 2001 novel by Amanda Brown and film starring Reese Witherspoon, it’s the theatrical equivalent of cotton candy – colorful and sweet but a bit lightweight. The Marin Musical Theatre Company has a production running through July 28.  

Elle Woods (Claudia Shapiro) has been dumped by her lawyer-to-be boyfriend Warner (Jeremy Kaplan) and does what any red-blooded American girl would do – she decides to follow him to law school and win him back. She crams for the LSAT, brings a bunch of cheerleaders to her Harvard interview, and wins admission after explaining that love has brought her there.     

Elle (Claudia Shapiro) and her Greek chorus

Despite being treated like a laughing stock, Elle finds a friend in teaching assistant Emmett Forrest (Tyler Gable). With his help, she finds herself on a legal team headed by stern Professor Callahan (Nelson Brown) as he defends exercise queen Brooke Wyndham (Alison Peltz) against a murder charge.

Will Elle pull a Perry Mason and make a prosecution witness crack under cross examination? More importantly, will she succeed in winning Warner back or will she find her soul mate in the sensitive Emmett? The answers are pretty (in pink) obvious.

Director Jenny Boynton has an energetic cast of young folk and stage veterans carrying the light load. Shapiro successfully blends her character’s cheerful optimism with her vulnerability though one wonders what she ever saw in the shallow Warner. Gable is nicely understated as the one person at Harvard who sees Elle’s potential and more.

There’s a subplot involving a lovelorn hairdresser (Dani Innocenti Beem), her ex (Victor Schutz), their dog Rufus (Molly Malone Wesley Dog) and a UPS driver (Schutz again) that provides some of the show’s biggest laughs.     

Laughs also come via the Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin score with “There! Right There!” which attempts to musically answer the question of a key witness’s orientation (Is he gay or European?) It was one of the few ensemble numbers in which you could actually hear the lyrics as Jeff Paul and the orchestra regularly overpowered the vocals. Sound design is not this show’s strong suit.

Like a trip to the county fair, Legally Blonde: the Musical provides a pleasant summer evening of fun and entertainment.

Marin Musical Theatre Company’s ‘Legally Blonde: the Musical’ runs through July 28 at the Novato Theater Company Playhouse, 5420 Nave Drive, Ste. C, Novato. Friday & Saturday, 7:30 pm; Sunday, 2pm. $27–$50. 800.838.3006. marinmusicals.org.

Photos by Katie Wickes

This review originally appeared in an edited version in the Pacific Sun.

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