Musical: “Legally Blonde”
Group: The Muny
Venue: The Muny in Forest Park
Dates: Through June 26
Tickets: From free to $66; contact 314-534-1111 or www.metrotix.com
Story: Elle Woods is riding the wave. She’s graduating from UCLA with a degree in merchandising, she’s the head of her sorority and her boyfriend Warner is a handsome young preppie who is headed to Harvard Law School. A Valley Girl, however, doesn’t fit into Warner’s career plans, and Elle is crushed when instead of giving her an engagement ring he dumps Elle in search of a more “ideal” woman for his life.
The resilient Elle isn’t finished, though. She decides to apply to Harvard herself to win Warner back, showing him that she’s more than just a pretty face with blonde hair and a pink wardrobe. After some less-than-stellar studying she somehow makes it into Harvard Law, where her bubbly nature runs up against authoritarian Professor Callahan as well as Warner’s new girlfriend, the ‘serious’ Vivienne. With help from kindly graduate assistant Emmett and her newfound hair stylist friend Paulette, Elle takes on Callahan as well as a murder trial involving a famous workout queen who just happens to be a sorority sister. What are the odds?
Highlights: Making its Muny debut, this frothy, upbeat show is based on the novel by Amanda Brown and 2001 film that starred Reese Witherspoon. Silly but lightweight and entertaining, it’s an ideal vehicle for The Muny, a crowd-pleaser that filled many of the amphitheater’s 11,000 seats on opening night and kicks off executive producer Paul Blake’s final of 22 seasons in flashy style.
Other Info: Lauren Ashley Zakrin makes her Muny debut as Elle, a role she portrayed quite capably as understudy in the first week of the initial touring production’s visit to The Fox Theatre here in 2008, when she filled in for the injured lead actress. Zakrin’s energy and enthusiasm are essential characteristics for the irrepressible Elle, driving the show’s flimsy script through sundry potholes to arrive at its cheerful destination. She suitably showcases Elle’s charm and ebullient personality, playing off D.B. Bonds as the earnest Emmett, Lisa Howard as the well-meaning but romantically frustrated Paulette, Ken Land as the imperious Callahan and Matthew Hydzik as the shallow, superficial Warner Huntington III.
Heather Hach’s book keeps the show moving from the sunny shores of Los Angeles to the East Coast towers of Harvard. It’s matched by the breezy, humorous music and lyrics of Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin, with tunes that feature clever words and a variety of pop sounds from calypso and rap to the “Riverdance” influence of Paulette’s “Ireland” number with her ripped delivery man dream guy Kyle (Colt Prattes).
An amusing variation on the ancient dramatic device of the Greek chorus works cleverly here in the guise of Elle’s trio of vapid Valley vixens Pilar, Margot and Serena, played sassily by K.B. Hart, Taylor Louderman and Tiffany Engen, respectively. St. Louis native Nikki Snelson has a grand time as exercise maven Brooke Wyndham, Sara Sheperd suitably plays Elle’s brunette foil Vivienne Kensington and Madeline Trumble is Brooke’s scheming stepdaughter.
Marc Bruni and Rusty Mowery recreate the show’s direction and choreography, respectively, and Mowery gets the most out of his dancers in several energetic numbers that take advantage of the massive Muny stage. Technical support includes some colorful set pieces by Steve Gilliam, including an amusing high-heel house in Malibu as well as Paulette’s gaudy shop and the gray exterior of Harvard Law. Lighting is by F. Mitchell Dana, sound design by Jason Krueger and costumes courtesy of Kansas City Costume, the latter most pronounced with Paulette’s headache-inducing color combinations and Elle’s flamboyant garb.
A special nod goes to animal trainer William Berloni for the antics of Elle’s portable pooch, Bruiser, and Paulette’s canine Rufus. Chico the Chihuahua as Bruiser even barked on cue.
There’s nothing particularly memorable about “Legally Blonde,” but it does make for pleasant enough entertainment for a warm summer night at the famous Forest Park amphitheater.
Rating: A 3.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.