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A CurtainUp Connecticut Review
“Entertaining” means rewarding the senses — from the eyes and ears to the gray matter which resides behind them, while “diverting” is something that keeps the senses alert so that your chin doesn’t drop into your soup and your head doesn’t nod dangerously (or embarassingly). It’s this term which best fits Legally Blonde even though there may be countless young girls and women who will find encouraging substance in this fairy tale about female empowerment.
The leading character, Elle (Kelly Felthous), a “pretty, smart, rich, thin blonde” California co-ed gets dumped by her ambitious boyfriend Warner (Robert Patrick Ryan), who leaves the sunny clime for the richer training grounds of Harvard Law School. Elle follows him “out of love,” but after enrolling in Harvard to be near him, she discovers she not only has a penchant for higher education but also for criminal law. (Who knew?)
Like “sister musicals Wicked and Hairspray — not to mention Annie — it’s clear from the start that Elle will prevail, outsmarting Warner in the classroom, charming the nerdy Emmett (Christopher DeProphetis) and dodging the advances of the slimy Professor Callahan (Aloysius Gigl). For frosting on the cake and a final “take that guys” she single handedly solves a murder case right in the court room. Yeah, feminists!
Based on the 2001 Renee Witherspoon film, Blonde has music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin and a revised book based on the movie by Heather Hach. The score is lively without distinction and often sounds like an exercise video, a not so surprising comparison since the choreography by director Jonathan Stahl is almost endlessly aerobic. There is a good looking cast of guys and girls who give the dances their all. In “Whipped into Shape,” led by Brooke (Maria Logan) another less-than-shy blonde, Stahl’s choreography is finally right on target. Stahl is not so successful staging a courtroom scene, “Gay or European,” a number with potential for wit, which is reduced to limp wrists and swishy dancers milking the scene for laughs.
Felthous is a powerhouse throughout which means we seldom worry that Elle will not come out on top, and DeProphetis adds genuine warmth and a romantic voice as the guy she finally realizes is worthy of her love. Jacquelyn Piro Donovan plays Paulette the owner of “The Hair Affair Salon” who befriends Elle and supplies some additional comic dimension to the slim story as an Irish lady who can’t get her dog back from her no-good boyfriend, but manages to snag Kyle (Timothy Hughes) a kinky UPS delivery guy.
Among the large cast, Lauren Blackman shines in the mostly unrewarding role of Vivienne, Warner’s new girlfriend and Gillian Munsayac, Michela Imbesi and Brooke Morrison ably support the score as a Greek chorus.
Sets by John Farrell are fairly simple with an emphasis on pink, Elle’s “signature color” and costumes by Matthew Hemesath furnish a breath of stylish diversity.Oh, yes — not to forget W.C. Fields, two cute-as-can-be pooches, Bruiser (Roxie) and Rufus (Paul Newman) steal every scene they’re in lending credence to Mr. Fields wise, but sadly learned, show business axiom.
For a song list, see Curtainups review of the Broadway production