‘Legally Blonde’ Is a Perfect Summer Show

Summertime is light time, and we’re not only talking about beer.

You wear light clothing. You eat light meals (yep, a steak or seafood with a couple of ears of corn is light when compared to a Thanksgiving dinner or a hearty winter stew).

There’s light, a.k.a. beach, reading. Movie theaters tend to be filled with light features – superheroes and blow-’em-ups. So the Bellarine Theatre Company’s latest production, “Legally Blonde,” which will open this Friday evening, is perfectly timed.

“Legally Blonde,” based on the 2001 movie of the same name (released in July), with music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin and a book by Heather Hatch, is an ultra-light musical comedy. To sum up the show’s plot in a few words: A Valley/sorority girl from UCLA outwits the East Coast establishment at Harvard Law School.

Elle Woods (Bellarine founder and artistic director Jessica Evans), the blonde president of Delta Nu, is under the impression her boyfriend, Warner Huntington III (Ian Mullin), is going to propose to her. She’s worried about finding the perfect dress for the occasion, but her sorority sisters are all aflutter in the song “Omigod You Guys:”

Four carats, a princess cut

Are you psyched or what?

I just wish I could be there to see

When he gets down on one knee

Omigod, omigod you guys

Looks like Elle’s gonna win the prize

If there ever was a perfect couple

This one qualifies, omigod, you guys

Warner, however, has his future all planned out and it doesn’t include Elle. He is headed to Harvard Law and hopes to be a U.S. senator by the age of 30. He tells her it is time to get serious, singing that he will need a wife that’s “less of a Marilyn, more a Jackie.”

Dumped but still in love, Elle decides to chase Warner to Harvard. Her Delta Nu sister Kate (Amanda Delbury) helps her study for the LSAT. Elle passes but still has to write a personal essay. She decides to plead her case in person, backed by a squad of cheerleaders, and eventually wins acceptance at the school by arguing, in song, that being in love will make her successful.

Elle still has many an obstacle to overcome. There’s the ruthless Professor Callahan (Chris Huch):

I run a billion dollar law firm

And I hire four new interns every year

From this class I will select four young sharks whom I respect

And those four will have a guaranteed career, do you follow me?

So I wanna see, what?

Blood in the water

Exactly, let the games begin

Four of you will win

Then there’s Warner’s new girlfriend, law school classmate Vivienne Kensington (Melinda Gioe). Vivienne sets Elle up, inviting her to a costume party where she shows up dressed as a Playboy Bunny. Nobody else is in costume and Elle is an object of much derision.

Elle does have some allies, such as teaching assistant Emmett Forrest (AJ Mendini) and her beautician Paulette (Liz Law). Still, she has her work cut out for her.

Damn if she doesn’t defeat Warner in a classroom debate. Double damn – she earns one of Professor Callahan’s coveted internships along with Warner, Vivienne and Enid Hoopes (Maddie Ernst).

Act II centers around Callahan’s legal team’s defense of Brooke Wyndham (Lauren Talvacchio), a fitness queen charged with the murder of her billionaire husband.

The prosecution argues that Brooke’s motivation for the murder was that she was having an affair with her pool boy Nikos (Sean Casiao). Elle’s “gaydar” makes her believe the suspect is a homosexual who wouldn’t be interested in Brooke. She employs a little trick she learned from Paulette, the “Bend and Snap,” and when Nikos isn’t interested she’s convinced he is gay. The rest of the legal team, though, believes he’s simply European:

Dammit, gay or European?

So stylish and relaxed

Is he gay or European?

I think his chest is waxed…

Gay or just exotic?

I still can’t crack the code

Yes, his accent is hypnotic

Emmett gets Nikos to slip up under cross-examination, the pool boy saying his boyfriend’s name is Carlos (Alex Pallen). Nikos tries to walk back his testimony, saying he got the words boyfriend and best friend confused. Carlos jumps into the fray, upset that Nikos denies his love for him – “You are so gay you big parfait, you flaming one-man cabaret.”

The defense has opened a crack in the prosecution’s case. But Brooke is by no means off the hook yet. The case is further complicated when Callahan kisses Elle, earning a slap for his efforts. He fires her and Elle is ready to pack it all in and return to California, despite Emmett asking her to stay after realizing he’s in love with her.

But Brooke cans Callahan, deciding to hire Elle instead.

Still, the prosecution has a great witness in Brooke’s stepdaughter Chutney (Ashley Furlong), who swears she stepped out of a shower to see Brooke covered in her father’s blood. Elle, though, believes she can show Chutney is lying, thanks to her knowledge, of all things, hair styling.

By now readers should have figured out that “Legally Blonde” is far from a serious classic such as “West Side Story” or “South Pacific.” Though nominated for 10 Drama Desk Awards and seven Tony Awards the show didn’t win any (it did fare much better the next year in London where it won three Laurence Olivier Awards, including Best New Musical).

Indeed, the 2007 Tony Award for Best Musical went to the super-serious “Spring Awakening.” It is interesting to note that “Spring Awakening” opened on Broadway during the Great White Way’s serious season – in December, 2006. “Legally Blonde,” on the other hand, opened in April, meaning it had to build its audience during the summer.

It did, grossing more than a million bucks a week on several occasions. Which proved that this light, fluffy, high-energy musical, which is serious only in the sense that it is seriously funny, is a wonderful summertime concoction.

“Everything about ‘Legally Blonde’ is big,” said Evans. “It is BTC’s largest cast, our largest set, and even our largest pit orchestra.” Directed by Caitlin Hughes with musical direction by Southern Regional High School’s Andrew Wright, “Legally Blonde” will be performed on July 31 and Aug. 1, 6 and 7 at 7 p.m. and on Aug. 8 at 4 p.m. All performances are in the Pinelands Regional High School theater in Little Egg Harbor.

Tickets are $18 for adults, $15 for seniors and students and $10 for children 12 years of age and younger. They may be purchased online at bellarinetheatre.com or at the door.

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