Moonlight’s ‘Legally Blonde’ musical has fun twists
By Elizabeth Marie Himchak
Like Elle Woods proves to her doubters, there is much more to Moonlight’s “Legally Blonde: The Musical” than initially appears on the surface.
The movie-turned-Broadway musical is making its debut at Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista through July 14. It is the first of four shows in Moonlight Stage Productions’ 32nd summer season.
The show is impressive due to terrific performances by its cast, good staging, well-designed scenery and well-played music by the orchestra.
There are obviously some variations from the 2001 movie starring Reese Witherspoon, but those are minor. The musical still has Elle, a wealthy, California-based fashion merchandising major and sorority girl getting dumped in her senior year by her college sweetheart, Warner Huntington III, because his family expects him to be a senator by age 30 and Elle is “more of a Marilyn than a Jackie.”
To get him back, Elle defies all odds by getting accepted into Harvard Law School — where Warner is headed — but discovers along the way her true, but still extremely pink-filled potential as a lawyer.
If you — like this reviewer — has seen the movie countless times, then you’re sure to love the musical. It has all the favorite elements including Bruiser, Elle’s adorable Chihuahua; relationship-challenged Paulette; the UPS guy (who here gets a name, Kyle); the bend and snap; and young lawyer Emmett, the first to see beyond Elle’s fluff who makes her realize that she and the law are a perfect match. Many of the movie’s most memorable lines and scenes are included in the stage version, though occasionally tweaked.
The improbable storyline of “Legally Blonde” could be written off by some as just light, comedic chick-fare. But if the audience looks a little deeper, they will learn the show’s true message — that if one limits his or her aspirations to those others have for them based on stereotypes, their true potential will never be realized. But if they have faith in themselves and are true to oneself, they can accomplish more than ever imagined.
Likewise, those who attend Moonlight’s show are in for much more of a treat than they might expect — especially if they figure they have seen it all in the movie and would therefore skip the stage version.
The addition of music and dancing enhances “Legally Blonde,” bringing it to another level. This is due to catchy and memorable tunes like “Omigod, You Guys,” “Chip on My Shoulder” and “So Much Better,” and a cast that has superb dancing skills showcased by director and choreographer John Vaughan, a Moonlight veteran whose career has included directing and choreographing more than 300 shows. Vaughan’s staging of Elle’s “essay” via use of a marching band is particularly impressive.
Emma Degerstedt as Elle is perfect in the role for her versatility — going from perky and optimistic to solemn. She is a strong singer and dancer, who for the show’s two-plus hours makes one forget Witherspoon once walked in those hot pink high heels.
In the musical, more of Paulette’s back story is revealed through the song “Ireland,” beautifully performed by Julie Cardia.
Another role larger in the musical is Emmett, played well by Brandon Joel Maier. Here he not only makes Elle recognize her potential by helping her study and encouraging her, but in the department store scene, Elle, as a gesture of appreciation, gives him a makeover so Emmett’s appearance matches his inner qualities, potential and aspirations.
Among scene stealers are Johnny Fletcher who plays Kyle, the UPS guy; and Jennifer Simpson who as fitness guru-turned-murder defendant Brooke Wyndham performs an impressive jump rope routine while singing “Whipped Into Shape.” Kudos to the cast members who accompanied Simpson.
As for audience “ahhhs,” those appropriately went to Ness, a Chihuahua mix up for adoption at Helen Woodward Animal Center, in the role of Bruiser; and Ali, an English bulldog portraying Paulette’s dog Rufus.
“Legally Blonde: The Musical” can be seen at 8 p.m. Wednesdays to Sundays through July 14. Gates open for the outdoor theater at 6:30 p.m. for picnics. Bring food and non-alcoholic beverages or purchase dinner and beverages on site.
Lawn and chair seating is offered. Ticket range is $15 to $50. Purchase at www.moonlightstage.com or call 760-724-2110.
Moonlight Amphitheatre is at 1200 Vale Terrace Drive in Vista. Parking is free.
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