City Paper is not for tourists
Legally Blonde bends and snaps its way into your heart, whether you want it to or not. The musical is as fun and effervescent as the movie on which it’s based.
For a certain sector of viewers, the story is a modern classic: Sorority queen Elle Woods’ California dream comes crashing down when her boyfriend, Warner, dumps her because in his words, he needs a “Jackie,” not a “Marilyn.” With resolve and determination, she follows Warner across the country to Harvard Law School in an attempt to win him back and manages to charm the hell out of everyone she meets in the process.
Elle’s charm is essential for the show to work, and it flows through the entire production. The excellent ensemble cast—right down to the furry, four-legged friends playing Bruiser and Rufus—lights up the stage. Gabriella DeLuca leads the way as Elle, imbuing our heroine with a charisma and warmth that make her easy to root for, and Kaylen Morgan’s Warner is cool, smug, and deliciously loathsome.
The rest of the main cast is filled out nicely, with Noah Israel hitting the right combination of kind and nerdy as Emmett, Elle’s supportive friend and other love interest, and Janine Sunday channelling the bubbliness of Elle’s cosmetologist bestie, Paulette. Greg Watkins is wonderfully slimy as Professor Callahan, Rachel Barlaam nails uptight Vivienne, and Amanda Kaplan gives bluster to workout superstar Brooke.
This cast combines Legally Blonde’s sunny disposition with killer vocals for its winning formula. From the opening sounds of the early number “Omigod You Guys,” the energy is high and doesn’t let up. Each musical number here is spectacularly staged in the Keegan’s small space, and the cast really sells the stakes. Paulette’s “Ireland” comes to life thanks to Sunday’s bighearted, cheery performance, while Kaplan and the ensemble show off some standout jump roping in “Whipped Into Shape.” (Ashleigh King’s choreography looks particularly strong in that sequence.) “Gay or European?” strikes courtroom comedy gold, and “Bend and Snap,” an iconic sequence from the 2001 film, is just as joyful here. It’s a sparkling number, and its high spirits and sass are irresistible.
Thanks to the bouncy numbers, the show’s 2 hour and 35 minute runtime breezes by and never drags. Not lost in all the merriment is the empowerment of Legally Blonde’s story—its lessons in womanhood still resonate and uplift. Yes, Elle is wealthy, beautiful, and blonde. Her life has been easy, and her biggest problem at the start is what dress to wear to what she thought would be her engagement dinner. But she’s also smart, a good person who is often dismissed as shallow and unserious. By the end of the show, she’s proved that women can care about both pretty dresses and murder trials, and that’s a win for womankind.
There’s a reason the show continues to run on stages worldwide more than 10 years after its Broadway debut: People love it. For those who love all things Legally Blonde, and for those who just want to have a good time, Keegan’s showy, fast-paced production is delightful.
1742 Church St. NW. $20–$63. (202) 265-3767. keegantheatre.com.