Riverside’s ‘Legally Blonde’: Perky, quirky and fun

Riverside Theatre and Walnut Street Theatre spent a whopping $1,390,513 to co-produce “Legally Blonde: The Musical.” Gulp.

As Elle Woods, in her perky pink suit clutching her bedazzled Chihuahua would exclaim – “Oh My God … Oh My God You Guys!”

But no worries – Elle is here to say that you can have it all.

That’s what you learn in the snappy, bubblegum musical “Legally Blonde,” which has come to energetic life at Riverside Theatre.

The 2007 musical – based on the 2001 Reese Witherspoon movie, which was based on Amanda Brown’s book – revolves around a perky young woman, Elle, whose signature color is pink. And yes, she’s got gobs of blonde hair.

Director/choreographer Richard Stafford keeps the bouncy pace bright and breezy throughout. Dancers fill up the space with gyrating arms and high kicks, and fling their bodies this way and that, like it’s a televised Dance Party and everyone is doing “The Pony.”

Music director Anne Shuttlesworth leads the almost non-stop music, written by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin. The 11-piece pit orchestra makes some big sounds here.

But the look of the show is a bit on the slim side, and not exactly the full-on visuals you would expect for a $1 million-plus production. Nevertheless, the musical pleases and will draw several laughs from the weary and even more from the unjaded.

Evocative of the opening of the 1960 musical “Bye Bye Birdie,” this production of “Legally Blonde” begins with “Omigod You Guys,” a sweet, bouncy number that will become a total earworm. In it, UCLA Delta Nu sorority sisters chatter about Elle getting engaged; peppered with frequent good-natured calls to “shut up!”

Instead though, boyfriend Warner announces he’s going to Harvard to study law and to, hopefully, find a “Jackie” instead of a “Marilyn” – someone he feels could help him on the political front.

Ever the positive person, Elle (a most adorable Kathryn Brunner) decides on the spot to become a lawyer as well, scores big on the LSAT and finagles her way into Harvard Law. And no, her parents did not grease any palms, nor did she send in doctored photographs of herself rowing for crew.

Instead, she sends a video; one featuring her with a marching band that has so much energy it’ll leave you exhausted. The head honchos at Harvard Law decide that it would be a good exercise in diversity to admit her. (Oh My God … Oh My God You Guys!)

Warner (Sean Thompson) is surprised to see Elle at Harvard. And Elle is just as surprised to see his new girlfriend, Vivienne (Lindsey Bliven, who enjoys the musical’s most well-rounded character). Vivienne begins as Elle’s enemy but ends up her champion.

There’s also the sincere law graduate, Emmett (Elliott Styles), a guy who feels comfy in wrinkled corduroy. Even if you never saw the ultra-popular movie, you know that Emmett is the guy for Elle, even though they never kiss. Shut up!

Don’t leave out Elle’s new best friend, Paulette (Rebecca Robbins), a hard-working hair stylist; and her Delta Nu sister, Brooke (Sara Brophy), who is wrongfully accused of murder.

There’s slimy lawyer Professor Callahan (strongly portrayed by Paul Schoeffler), who sings that the best lawyers are sharks and the rest are chum. When Callahan makes a move on Elle, she slaps him good and hard. One person in the audience was heard saying “That hurt!” There’s also the lesbian and the gay men, and a Greek chorus of go-go dancing Delta Nu sisters.

Well, it takes a lot of ingredients to make decent bubble gum, and you will enjoy this show’s pop for sure. It’s just that we’re getting sort of used to questioning certain things, which makes “Legally Blonde” seem suddenly old.

Perhaps we’ve grown sensitive to empty sugar. Now, jokes about lesbians feel cruel. And stereotypes about gay men feel as wrong as the racist stereotypes of Asians in “Anything Goes” or “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” It becomes a little squirmy.

Elle says you can have it all. Maybe you can’t.

But then there are those two adorable trained dogs that win our hearts more than anything. Yes they do!

And yeah, we do have fun watching the UPS guy (Parker Krug) wiggle his backside.

OMG you guys … Pink wins.

“Legally Blonde: The Musical” runs through May 5 at Riverside Theater, 3250 Riverside Park Dr., Vero Beach. Tickets start at $35. Call 772-231-6990 or visit RiversideTheatre.com.

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