Legally Blonde is what Grease would be if Sandy demanded that Danny meet her more than halfway — then proved that she was tougher than his greaser friends anyway.
The musical follows the same basic plot as the 2001 film, which starred Reese Witherspoon. Elle, a driven ditz from Malibu, gets dumped by her college sweetheart, who insists he needs someone more serious as he embarks on the next phase of his life at Harvard Law School. Determined to prove her gravitas, Elle worms her way into Harvard as well, and spends most of her time there trying to show people that there’s a brain working underneath all of that good hair.
It’s a good message — that anyone can overcome the snap judgments made on one’s appearance — even if it seems like it’s trying to install pretty and popular girls with even more self-esteem, something this generation doesn’t really need. But, at the Westchester Broadway Theatre, it’s a good thing that star Kelly Felthous fully embodies Elle’s self-confidence. The show is really hers — the program notes that, out of 18 songs in the show, Elle is charged with singing 16 of them. Felthous carries all those numbers with the correct amount of snap and sass.
The music itself is fine, too, so long as — Elle’s nightmare! — you don’t take it all too seriously. (How not seriously? The music was written by Laurence O’Keefe, whose previous credits include Bat Boy: The Musical.) The songs are catchy, poppy, and have a teeny tiny bit of that Broadway kind of rock. But with lyrics like “Oh my God, you guys,” they’re more fun in the moment — I doubt that these songs will be the kind that will outlive the show and earn a place in the Great American Songbook.
Yet in that moment, it’s not hard to get carried away with the show’s peppiness. (You may argue that this would be even easier if you’re a teen or tween girl, but I can see people of all ages being taken in by the upbeat vibe — an older gentleman seated next to me was definitely bopping in his seat.) Some of the jokes seem a little dated even now, and not all of the comic relief is actually that funny. But Elle is so charming, and so present on stage, that it doesn’t really matter. She’s an easy heroine to root for, and it’s not just because she looks great in a hot-pink suit.
Legally Blonde will be at the Westchester Broadway Theatre through April 29, 2012. (Get your tickets quickly; the theater has dramatically expanded the number of shows it does each season, so you have just a few weeks before Hairspray takes over.)