As benign, generally confectionery entertainment, “Legally Blonde” walks a fine line. The energetic musical satirically upends numerous stereotypes while flirting with perpetuating others.
Lauren Zakrin’s feisty Delta Nu president, Elle Woods, leads the way as the irrepressible fashionista who also happens to be the smartest, most soulful person in the room. The hook of course is that the so-called “dumb blonde” sorority queen is actually both gutsy and savvy. Not to mention Elle is also pretty in pink (her signature color) and always appropriately accessorized.
The “Blonde” franchise, beginning with the 2001 film starring Reese Witherspoon and now with its musical comedy derivative, relies on its lead character’s charm and resiliency to win audiences over. Zakrin dazzles here with natural buoyancy and a bright, strong voice to match.
The musical’s plot mirrors the film as it opens with Elle expecting a proposal from her boyfriend, Warner Hunington III (Jordan Bondurant), but getting dumped instead. The songs “Omigod You Guys” and “Serious” set a consistent template for the show, as the clever and often laugh-out-loud lyrics overshadow the mostly forgettable melodies. The songs effectively push the story forward, with Nell Benjamin and Laurence O’Keefe collaborating on both the music and lyrics with Heather Hach writing the musical’s book.
Once Elle gets over her initial shock with the help of her supportive sorority sisters, she decides to follow Warner to Harvard Law School and win back her man. Though she cruised to a 4.0 in fashion merchandising at UCLA, Harvard Law is a whole other deal. Elle learns the difference through the songs “The Harvard Variations” with other first-year students and “Blood In the Water” with imperious cutthroat Professor Callahan (the always powerful Paul Schoeffler). Callahan’s teaching assistant, Emmett Forrest (James Michael Lambert), takes an interest in Elle, seeing her first as a fellow fish-out-of-water at Ivy League Harvard. Naturally, their relationship evolves over the course of the show.
Elle eventually becomes an intern for Callahan along with Warner and his current girlfriend, Vivienne Kensington (Shannon O’Boyle), while becoming friends with lovelorn beauty shop owner Paulette Bonafonté (Ryah Nixon). The interns are enlisted to support Callahan in a murder trial that allows them to demonstrate legal acumen, and in Elle’s case, real-world experience.
The production’s funniest sequence “There! Right There!” involves a courtroom debate over whether a witness is gay or European. The answer will determine whether he perjured himself on the stand or not. The story’s obvious themes of honesty, loyalty and ethical behavior have a simple, effective resonance.
The production also features the Broadway veteran Chico as Elle’s faithful companion chihuahua, Bruiser.
Director Michael Heitzman’s likable production successfully entertains with Zakrin and the whole ensemble cast putting forward a strong case.
What: The Music Circus season opener starring Lauren Zakrin, James Michael Lambert, and Paul Schoeffler.
When: 7:30 p.m. June 15 – June 18, 2 p.m. June 16 and June 18; 3 p.m. June 19.
Where: Wells Fargo Pavilion, 1419 H St., Sacramento
Time: Two hours and 20 minutes including one intermission