By Bill Beard
I was lucky to get tickets last January to the London production of Legally Blonde, the Musical, and saw the vivacious Carley Stenson as Elle Woods, the ditsy, but determined blonde enchantress made famous in the films by the effervescent Reese Witherspoon.
With the tremendous success of Witherspoon’s double feature, Legally Blonde in 2001 and Legally Blonde 2 in 2003, it was only natural that the Great White Way would create space for a full-scale stage musical. It opened on Broadway in 2007 and in London in 2010; and though not nearly as triumphant as the films, it has made millions and is now being produced everywhere! Luckily, the Fireside Dinner Theatre in Ft. Atkinson, Wis., grabbed the “first in the Midwest” rights.
This is one of those really “feel good,” “we can all win” shows, where you’re happy to find that the “dumb blonde” is actually pretty darned sharp after all, and you cheer her victory over the social-climbing, opportunistic boyfriend and the “welcome to my promotion couch” big-shot law professor.
The story offers a beautiful bevy of UCLA Sigma Nu Sorority girls, led by their president and fashion leader, Elle Woods, played here by Sarah Daniels, one of Disney’s Little Mermaids (Ariel). They are all high-energy dancer-singers from the rousing opening number all the way through the show. Additional feminine strength comes from Amber Reese as Elle’s law school nemesis, Vivienne, and Kristen Sweeney, as health guru Brooke Wyndham, and the beautiful Bianca Denis. But the stand-out performance here is definitely the delightful Lanene Charters as the zany hairdresser, Paulette. She is a firecracker in constant sizzle, ready to explode in her show-stopping number, “Ireland.”
The male cast members are a bit over-shadowed here, although Fireside regular Mathew Schwartz does a good job as Elle’s new lawyer friend-come-lover, Emmett; and Jeffrey Arnold Wolf is appropriately lecherous as Professor Callahan.
But special kudos must go to Brad Grimmer, who is the epitome of the “Men in Brown,” the perfect UPS “stud with a smile and a package!” And real admiration goes to Justeen, playing Bruiser, Elle’s Chihuahua, because … in real life … Justeen is also a certified therapy dog as well as a READ (reading education assistance dog).
Legally Blonde, the Musical plays through July 1, and is a fun family show. For information and tickets, call 800-477-9505 or visit www.firesidetheatre.com.
[Nota Bona: Let me add that the “dinner” part of Fireside Dinner Theatre is absolutely excellent; always has been. But their Saturday night “à la carte” choices (for a small surcharge) are truly gourmet dishes, worth the extra. The sea bass last week was “to die for!”]
From the June 13-19, 2012, issue