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5/11/2024     LEGALLY BLONDE: THE MUSICAL       City Springs Theatre Company


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City Springs Theatre Company has brought the Broadway hit Legally Blonde: The Musical to Sandy Springs’ Byers Theatre for a fashionably stylish run.  The audience was filled with hordes of pleased and happy fans (myself included).  And to be perfectly honest, I had more fun at this show than I have had at a musical since Natasha and Pierre.


Looking back over prior columns I’ve written about this show (in my usual attempt to sloth through another oft-seen piece), I was chagrinned to find no template for me to just copy and paste here.  Indeed, from my first encounter with it in 2008’s MTV Video Broadcast, I have gone out of my way to distance myself from my fondness for it, describing it as a “guilty pleasure” and even providing judgy ripostes to a series of imagined “objections.”


No More!  There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed about here.  This show is a puppy-dog of joy from start to finish, filled to the no-dark-roots hairdo with earworm-worthy songs, overflowing with clever wit and too many laugh-out-loud moments to count, ending on such a high note it broke my heart to have to leave.  (Of course, the grim prospect of navigating the heinously tight-cornered Byers Theatre Parking Garage might have a little to do with that heartbreak).


So, if you missed the 2001 Reese Witherspoon movie, or any of the many local productions and tours that have been ubiquitous since its 2007 Broadway premiere (yes, I have a tech script somewhere in my vast archive of productions I’ve worked), let me do a quick recap.

Elle Woods is a blonde!  Quintessentially so!  A child of well-to-do-parents, she is anticipating a proposal from the equally well-to-do Warner Huntington III, the perfect cap to her undergraduate career earning a 4.0 average in … I don’t know, some sort of Malibu high-end shopping discipline.  But Mr. H. III is a pompous jerk and would rather have someone “serious” to bolster his political ambitions, so he breaks up with Elle and slithers off to Harvard Law.


But Elle is nothing if not determined.  Even if it means cramming for an LSAT so she can get into Harvard Law as well.  (“Like it’s Hard!”).  And so it goes.  If you don’t know what happens next, I won’t spoil it for you here.  You may find much of it a strain on your willing-suspension-of-disbelief (as too many of my friends do), but if you do, you may just have a deep-rooted bigotry about the “blonde of the species.”  From beginning to end, Elle may make impulsive choices, but she is smart enough to follow through with what it takes to succeed, and even proves herself smarter than most of her peers and even her teachers, especially when it comes to NOT judging people and making mostly baseless assumptions. And if you think that it’s unrealistic for such a blonde to have that capacity, it just may be a “you” issue.


And this, my friends, is the real virtue of this story, and why it does not even come close to earning that “guilty pleasure” damn-with-faint-praise judgery label.   There are many different kinds of smart, and Elle Woods is a character who possesses them all.  She is eminently comfortable with seeing all the details of a person or situation and making the right decisions based on that.


As usual, City Springs has gathered a remarkably talented cast and crew, and they are operating in peak form.  Lily Kaufmann is purely perfect as Elle.  She is a magical ball of pure enthusiasm, relishing the marrow of life with lip-smacking gusto, more self-aware than most of her peers, but brought to earth (and humanized) by too many moments of betrayal and setback and honest feeling.  Just watch as she responds to the prank that leads her to wear a playboy bunny costume to a not-costume party – she swallows her embarrassment and OWNS the moment, her every subtext and attitude saying, “Okay, Ha Ha, you got me, but you’re not going to GET me!”  Her growing affection for T.A. Emmett is credible and sweet and pays off beautifully.


Also memorable are Haden Rider’s Emmett, who is a perfect antidote to Warner (a funny and vacuous Nick Walker Jones).  Kayce Denise brings a sassy edge to Salon owner Paulette that is new and exciting, and Marcello Audino as sexy UPS guy Kyle delightfully makes Dad-Bods hot again.  Bryant Smith’s Professor Callahan is suitably sharky slimy creepy, Sara Al-Bazali’s Vivienne successfully navigates the transition from Mean Girl to Elle-fan (a transition that was too often clunky and abrupt in other productions), Jennifer Geller’s Brooke is lithe and limber and opens the second act by making “Whipped Into Shape” such a true dynamo of energy that I could swear there were sparks flying off the stage.  The ensemble is filled out with more than 15 faces who morph into Elle’s Delta Nu sisters (and Greek Chorus), Elle’s Law School brothers and sisters, lawyers and judges and prosecutors and witnesses (Oh my), Paulette’s customers, not a few prisoners, and on and on and on.  There are also two dogs (Newton and Ellie) who are pure canine delight.


The chief culprit in making this production so elegantly perfect has to be director/choreographer Nikki Snelson (who played  Brooke in the original cast).  She obviously knows this material well and, with her team,  has brought many of the original design elements with her (music direction by Ben Bryant, set by David Robertson, Lights by Mike Wood, Costumes by Amanda West, Sound by Anthony Narciso) but without slavishly copying them.  A few tweaks were made to the libretto to bring it up to 2024 (“TikTok dancing” instead of “Ethnic Dancing,” a “Les Miz” moment with a Rainbow flag in the transition after “Gay or European”), and, in general, keeping the pace so lively and endearing that even my least favorite part of the show (the Irish Dance that interrupts the title song) seemed natural, dripping with tongue-in-cheek wit.  This was the best-directed production of this show I have experienced – and I have experienced many.


So, City Springs Theatre’s production of Legally Blonde: The Musical is a thorough delight, a funny and memorable tale filled with song and dance and everything we find rapturous in a musical.


And Omigod it is so filled with energy and youth and talent!  You guys should really see it!


--  Brad Rudy  (   #LegallyBlondeTheMusical    #CitySpringsTheatre)

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