If the musical “Legally Blonde” were a cake, it would be sagging in the middle due to its unmelodic score and thin plot. Fortunately, the sweet, fluffy and high-gloss production that opened Saturday at New Village Arts frosts over many of these flaws.
Director Kristianne Kurner’s high-energy production is lifted by the irrepressible and creative choreography of Kyle Hawk in his professional debut.
Show star Danielle Levas doesn’t pull off looking 22, but she does bring joy and total commitment to the role of Elle Woods, a bubbly UCLA sorority sister who follows her ex-boyfriend to Harvard Law School and ultimately finds herself.
The 2006 Broadway musical is based on the (much better) 2001 film starring Reese Witherspoon (which was itself inspired by Amanda Brown’s novel). The musical is a full-on celebration of girl power, as Elle finds her voice and intellectual prowess through a supportive circle of female friends.
The musical (score and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin, book by Heather Hatch) is mostly faithful to the film but it shines in ways that only a musical can.
A gay witness posing as straight in the courtroom performs a wild duet to the song “Gay or European?” And when a character reveals his Irish heritage, the whole cast ends up in a Riverdance-style kickline. And despite the mediocre score, the lyrics are frequently hilarious.
Hawk’s athletic choreography demands a lot of its triple-threat cast, who work together well as an in-tune ensemble. Most cast members play multiple roles.
Marlene Montes is quirky and funny as Paulette, the heart-of-gold hairstylist who builds Elle’s confidence. Sittichai Chaiyahat is sweet and understated as Emmett, the smitten law clerk who helps Elle succeed in law school. Cody Ingram finds the humanity in Warner, Elle’s ambitious and self-absorbed ex-boyfriend. And Cassie Bleher transitions nicely (from mean girl to bestie) as Warner’s preppy new girlfriend Vivienne.
Ultra-fit Catie Marron wows by singing a number full out while speed-jumping rope as jailed fitness queen Brooke. Steven Freitas is oily and condescending as predatory law professor Callahan. Joel Miller gets well-earned laughs as Paulette’s strutting beefcake boyfriend Kyle. And bubbly Gina Maria Cioffi, Molly O’Meara and the singularly named Allyce play both Elle’s sorority sisters and her Greek chorus.
Rounding out the cast in multiple roles are Erin Vanderhyde, Trevor Rex, Roma Watkins, Thomas Reasoner, Marc Akiyama and Tony Houck, who is also the show’s musical director and conducts its offstage four-piece band from the keyboard.
Also, on opening night, rescue pup Luna Pierce made a few brief appearances as Elle’s Chihuahua “Bruiser” (7-year-old Bubba Sola will sub in at some performances) and well-trained terrier Mr. Monty played Paulette’s dog “Rufus.”
Christopher Scott Murillo designed the simple but effective scenery, Alex Crocker-Lakness designed lighting, TJ Fucella designed sound and Samantha Vesco designed costumes.
Because “Legally Blonde” tells the story of a seeming blonde bimbo who triumphs in a man’s world, its female empowerment message is likely to attract many moms and daughters this summer. While some references will likely go over most pre-teens’ heads, there are some mature elements in the script and choreography.
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays; 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. Through Sept. 9.
Where: New Village Arts Theatre, 2787 State Street, Carlsbad.
Tickets: $44-$47 (discounts available)
Phone: (760) 433-3245