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October 2, 2008

Legally Blonde The Musical

Roy Meachum

Becky Gulsuig as Elle Woods in "Legally Blonde." (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Becky Gulsuig as Elle Woods in "Legally Blonde." (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Tuesday's opening at the Hippodrome Theatre brings to Baltimore a show that's still running, if not so strong on Broadway. A cast member's father confided the two-week closing notice has gone up on the New York hit. Pity! But out in the hinterland we have this wow! touring company with us.


"Legally Blonde: The Musical" is entirely about fun, and everybody could use more of that in life. You know the story: Blonde enters Harvard Law, certain she can put down her ex-boyfriend's fixed idea that she is blonde dumb. Surprising everyone, she lasts. She proves that she is blonde smart. You may recall the movies; Reese Witherspoon starred in the original and the sequel.


But Ms. Witherspoon did not have available Director-Choreographer Jerry Mitchell, or a score that clearly talks to the younger generation. It really buzzes along. My "date" was a brand-new teenager. Emma turned 13 the day before. She loved the show and dipped into her birthday money to buy a tee-shirt and CD of the score.


Back to Mr. Mitchell, his chief chore is to keep the movement rolling. As choreographer, he takes a very nimble cast and keeps them going at hard pace. The biggest applause came from a deliciously devised exercise routine. Believe it! Of course, we could breeze through the rope routine if we were as fit as the good-looking boys and girls up on stage.


This is not to denigrate Heather Hach's book, but the entire evening pours into effervescence and, as I said, having fun. Her lines go into that mixture. Nell Benjamin and Laurence O'Keefe created the words and music that enable Jerry Mitchell to generate a veritable maelstrom. Put all that together with a marvelous cast and it works! Delightfully!


Getting the most applause – and deserving it – is Becky Gulsvig; she was the understudy for Elle Woods on Broadway. Preparing for the tour must have been comfortable for her. Now instead of reporting back stage and staying there, Ms. Gulsvig goes on. She's properly blonde. She's got the twinkle toes and voice that also fit. She's the star!


Baltimore girl Natalie Joy Johnson's Paulette occasionally nudges the star to the edges. But Ms. Johnson has an oversized personality and a voice that roars through the Hippodrome. She makes a significant contribution to the fun pie.


To call in a male: D.B. Bonds plays the stand-up guy for Ms. Gulsvig's Elle. In a production that centers on the distaff, he seems comfortable in the male lead, Emmett. You could have seen Mr. Bonds on his tours with "Les Miserables" and "Phantom of the Opera."


Everything in the show fits together: scenery and costumes add to the spirit. The whole shebang has two weeks on Baltimore's West Side and then it moves on.


When you want a lift in your ho-hum life get over to the Hippodrome Theatre. "Legally Blonde – The Musical" is an enchanted way to spend the evening. A matinee also will spark up your afternoon.



Woodsboro - Walkersville Times
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