“Legally Blonde” — ★ ★
For pure fluff, there’s no show quite like “Legally Blonde.” Adapted from the hit 2001 film, this musical about a privileged Malibu princess, who follows her ex-boyfriend to Harvard Law School in an effort to win him back, makes no apology for what it is (spun sugar) and no attempt to be what it’s not.
The opening-night audience for the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre’s revival understood that and relished the sugar rush.
Written by Heather Hach (whose book follows closely the movie script), with an unremarkable, pop-centered score by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin, “Legally Blonde” needs an engaging actress in the role of Elle Woods, the sorority president turned law student and the blonde of the title. Director Robin M. Hughes has such an actress in the winsome Alaina Wis.
Elle Woods (Alaina Wis), right, takes the lead in the defense of a fitness guru charged with murder in the musical “Legally Blonde,” running through Nov. 20 at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre. – Courtesy of Ellen Prather
In fact, the strongest performances in Metropolis’ production come courtesy of the women: Zoe Branch, Jess DiForte and Jasmine Lacy Young as Elle’s Delta Nu sorority sisters; Michelle Tibble as friend and confidante Paulette; and Josephine Van Ert as Elle’s romantic rival.
It makes you wish they had better material.
The action begins when Elle (the perpetually perky Wis), expecting a marriage proposal from her blow-dried, Harvard-bound boyfriend Warner (Jimmy Romano), instead gets dumped because she’s not a “serious” enough life partner for the wannabe politician.
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Determined to win Warner back, Elle — accompanied by her best canine pal Bruiser (rescue dog Bella Kerouac) — follows him to Cambridge, where she encounters cliched overachievers who dismiss her. Among them is Van Ert’s ambitious Vivienne, Warner’s new girlfriend.
Struggling law student Elle Woods (Alaina Wis), right, bonds with beauty shop owner Paulette (Michelle Tibble) in the musical “Legally Blonde” at the Metropolis. – Courtesy of Ellen Prather
With help from sympathetic teaching assistant and all-around good guy Emmett (Dan Hamman) and moral support from her imagined Greek chorus (her sorority sisters, get it?), Elle emerges as a star pupil. She impresses a predatory professor (Christopher Johnson), who enlists her to help defend his client, fitness guru Brook Wyndam (Haley Gustafson), who’s accused of murdering her much-older husband. As it turns out, legal help isn’t all the professor wants from Elle, who finds herself on the receiving end of his unwanted sexual advances.
Outside the classroom, Elle befriends Paulette (Michelle Tibble, a good singer), a salon owner with a louse of an ex, from whom Elle recovers Paulette’s beloved dog.
The production has its moments. The opening number “Ohmigod You Guys” is a hoot owing to the ensemble’s gleeful performance as opposed to its lyrics: “Now that a man chose you/Your life begins today/Make him a happy home/Waste not his hard-earned wage./And so he does not roam/Strive not to look your age.”
One might assume satirical intent from the show’s creators, if the “satire” had any bite. It doesn’t. Moreover, after insisting there’s more to Elle than her appearance, the show focuses on her appearance. And not just hers. Emmett gets a makeover during a “Pretty Woman”-style shopping spree and a prosecution witness’ appearance is scrutinized by Elle and company as they try to determine whether he is “gay or European” in a late second act number that elicited some of the production’s biggest laughs. Then there’s “Bend and Snap,” a tune that instructs women on using their physical assets to attract men, suggesting that sex appeal may be a woman’s most alluring attribute.
Dan Hamman plays third-year law student Emmett, who befriends newcomer Elle Woods, (Alaina Wis) in Metropolis’ revival of “Legally Blonde.” – Courtesy of Ellen Prather
The show, which runs two hours and 20 minutes, could stand some trimming. First to go: the superfluous second act step dancing number set up by Paulette’s equally expendable first act homage to Ireland. The tone-deaf LGBTQ references could also be excised.
Some of Hughes’ ensemble lack experience, and the set and costumes fail to impress. Unlike the material, those issues can be remedied. “Legally Blonde,” however, will never be more than the calorie-free diversion it is.