Elle Woods marches into Overture this week, a petite package of determination from her blond flip to her pink high heels.
And just like Elle muscles her way into Harvard Law School through sheer sticktoitiveness, the youthful cast of "Legally Blonde" is dogged in its pursuit of entertainment — and it thoroughly succeeds.
"Legally Blonde," a musical comedy adapted from the 2001 Reese Witherspoon film of the same name, is a delightful show with a big heart and fantastic dance moves from director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell.
With music and lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe ("Bat Boy") and Nell Benjamin and a story by Heather Hach, "Blonde" follows Elle, a bubbly Malibu Barbie in screaming pink, in her quest to win back an ex-boyfriend.
Warner (a very Ken-like Matthew Ragas) claims he needs "less of a Marilyn, more of a Jackie" to realize his ambitions. Convinced that he hasn't yet seen her serious side, Elle earns admittance to law school, cheered on by a "Greek chorus" of her Delta Nu sisters, patient, persistent Emmett (Nic Rouleau) and her practical manicurist, Paulette.
Nikki Bohne rules the stage as Elle, with a strong belting voice and boundless energy. She gives Elle both a naïve hopefulness and a backbone; her "So Much Better" stops the show.
The first brunette to play the lead in "Blonde," Bohne's first wig looks soft and pretty. But the second, a straight blowout, appears damaged, like she has split-ends. It's unfortunate and distracting.
Because this is a non-Equity (non-union) cast, this national tour is many of the performers' first. But the supporting cast, from Maggie Taylor as ditzy sorority sister Margot to talented Madison native Andy White as a pompous Harvard student, is uniformly solid.
Kahlil Joseph practically slithers across the stage as Professor Callahan. His buttery baritone is a perfect match for the sinister "Blood in the Water." Jillian Wallach is a dynamite Paulette, pairing an exaggerated (Jersey? Boston?) accent with a sweet, clear singing voice.
Those who caught "Blonde" in one of its six showings on MTV will notice slight lyric tweaks in the booty-shaking "Positive" and Paulette's ode to "Ireland," as well as a single-level set that adapts more readily to touring.
But despite updates, weak spots remain. Spotlights are overused (the follow spot is shaky), and the pit orchestra sounds synth-heavy. The title song, a flag-waving parade anthem, is simplistic and irritating (save a hilarious nod to "Riverdance" midway through). More than a few lyrics are wince-worthy.
"Spring the trap/they cheer and clap, So depend on your friend/For the bend and snap!"
Cheerleaders aren't known for their intelligence, but that's the very image Elle is trying to overcome. Elle's sorority sisters bounce like hyperactive puppies, and characters lean heavily on stereotype - Enid is the butch lesbian, Vivienne the frigid preppie.
But then "Legally Blonde" turns around and acknowledges this, with the hilarious "There! Right There!" in which an entire courtroom attempts to determine if the witness is "gay or European."
"They bring their boys up different in those charming foreign ports. They play peculiar sports/ In shiny shirts and tiny shorts."
Gay, straight, European, American — anyone with a sense of humor and an affection for musical theater will be charmed by this fun-loving show. Listen to the Greek chorus: keep it positive!