Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Theatre presents “Legally Blonde: The Musical,” a performance inspired by the famous film, which was based on an Amanda Brown novel. Instead of deviating from the typical cinematic interpretation of “Legally Blonde,” “Legally Blonde: The Musical,” elaborates and accentuates its most memorable scenes with the addition of musical numbers and deeper character perspectives.
The musical follows the hit story about Delta Nu sorority president, Elle Woods (Kathryn Brunner), who decides to follow the man she is seriously in love with, Warner Huntington III (Sean Thompson), all the way to Harvard Law school after he unexpectedly breaks up with her in the pursuit of a practical future. Elle, intending her trip to be solely for the chase of love, finds a true passion for law along the way.
The comedy plays off the stark contrast between Elle’s over-exaggerated representation of female stereotypes and the deemed-elite world of Harvard. Her big blonde hair and custom pink suits prompted her to stand out in a society that discouraged individualization and her ultimate success. Elle, without abandoning her values and bright fashion sense, debunks everyone’s low expectations and degrading interpretations of her by prevailing academically and even applying her unique learned lessons from the sorority home at court—proving that experience outshines textbook-knowledge in many ways.
Director and choreographer Richard Stafford showcased his talent and eye for leading cast members beautifully in Walnut Street Theatre’s production of “Legally Blonde: The Musical.” The musical numbers were extremely extravagant and intricate, pairing complex choreography with lighthearted songs and comedic lyrics, such as in “Omigod You Guys.” The union of simplified issues, such as picking an engagement outfit with grand arrangements and Peter Barbieri’s elaborate set designs, strategically mimics Elle Woods’ very nature.
The cast itself is full of energy and devoted to each of their characters, no matter how small a role. Brunner’s performance as Elle Woods is delightfully reminiscent of Reese Witherspoon’s role, even matching many of Witherspoon’s mannerisms, and, at times, convincing the audience that Witherspoon herself was on the Walnut Street Theatre stage.
Rebecca Robbins’ portrayal of Paulette, unarguably one of “Legally Blonde’s” most memorable and admired characters, gave the part a bit more of a dynamic flair by speaking beyond the natural humor of the character in her debut song, “Ireland.” Robbins gave a fresh performance of a classic character.
However, above all, the true star of the show was Elliot Styles. Playing Emmett Forrest, Elle’s companion and eventual love interest, Styles gave Emmett the perfect balance between aiding wisdom and awe-driven curiosity. Styles portrayed his character with charismatic quirkiness and an endearing awkwardness that was not seen in the film.
Brunner and Styles’ performances flowed together naturally. Emmett, established in his field although still lacking self-esteem, provided Elle with a consistent support system. Following the drive of a confident woman and watching Elle grow into her own deserved place in the world of law enlivened Emmett’s own passions and excitement for life. Brunner and Styles complement each other just as much as Elle and Emmett.
“Legally Blonde: The Musical” is laced with the very comedy that made the 2001 film such a success. Walnut Street Theatre’s production features a cast committed to creating an enjoyable, memorable experience for the audience. “Legally Blonde: The Musical” will be showcased until July 21. Tickets can be purchased at http://www.walnutstreettheatre.org/.
Photo: Elle Woods (Kathryn Brunner) and Bruiser (Frankie). Photo taken by Mark Garvin.