Legally Blonde the Musical at Lyric Arts
Honestly, I’ll try to see this musical anytime it’s being produced in the Twin Cities. It’s a great feel-good show with an inspirational message and I love that Lyric Arts decided to produce it to round out their 2018-2019 season. All three of their musicals this season featured strong female leads and this one is no exception. Legally Blonde the Musical is a delightful production and the perfect summer show for everyone to see, especially with the word last summer that a third installment was in the works.
Legally Blonde the Musical follows the same story we all know and love. Elle Woods seems to have it all. She is President of the Delta Nu sorority, as a perfect 4.0 GPA (in fashion merchandising…), fantastic friends and a boyfriend who could pass for a Kennedy. The night comes when she thinks the love of her life, Warner, is proposing to her only for her to figure out he’s dumping her before heading off to Harvard Law School. Crushed and humiliated, Elle is determined to get him back and manages to get accepted into the Ivy League School (What like it’s hard?). While there she struggles with Ivy League “Mean Girls,” classes, professors trying to prove to Walter that she is a “Jackie O and not a Marilyn.” However, she soon discovers her true potential and sets out to prove herself and shows how she’s actually so much more than what people took her for.*
Chad Van Kekerix, the Scenic Designer, has designed a lovely set for this show with a screen at the top of the proscenium that helps elevate each scene without dominating the space. Adam Raine, the Lighting Designer, also makes a beautiful impact in this show with his lighting which also is never distracting but compliments the show visually. As always choreographer Lauri Kraft gives us thrilling and energetic dance moves that use the intimate space of Lyric Art’s stage well.
This production is a triumph for Ben Thietje who is making his directorial debut at Lyric Arts. He has cast a stellar group of performers for each and every one of these roles. Honestly, the show stands on itself as with a great script that is reminiscent of the original movie and catchy songs. However, what makes this production unlike the others I’ve seen in the past is the casting. So many of these actors have completely turned these roles upside down and bring them to life in new and unique ways.
While the entire Greek Chorus of Delta Nu Sorority girls is spectacular, the roles of Pilar, Margot and Serena stand out the most played by Alexhannah Joson, Jaclyn Juola and Abbi Fern respectfully. Each one brings their own unique charm, youthful energy and hilarious antics that sometimes steal the show in large numbers. Maxwell Emmett Ward, who plays Elle’s ex-boyfriend Warner, is more over the top with his portrayal versus the typical suave sly version. His incredible vocal control shines especially during his solo number.
Natalie Dulka, who plays Vivienne, just about blew my socks off with her epic belts that had the audience cheering mid-song. Amanda White plays the lovable hairstylist Paulette, a role originally played by the amazing Jennifer Coolidge in the movie. The role can be difficult at times as you never want to go so over the top that it becomes annoying however White nails it. She’s eccentric with her portrayal with wide eyes and hilarious delivery of each line.
Armando Harlow Ronconi plays the charming and dorky Emmett. Ronconi breathes new life into this role which can otherwise be kind of boring. He creates reoccurring moments with Elle that not only are fun to watch but also brings the audience along for the ride, making us feel even more a part of the production. For example, Ronconi has Emmett sorority snapping with Elle almost as a loving mocking snap however it slowly grows into their own little inside joke that becomes anything but mocking. Also, don’t get me started on the gorgeous belt that he projects through the theatre. For the fans of this show, you know which I’m talking about…”With little Miss Woods comma Elle.”
Speaking of her, Elle Woods herself is played by Amanda Mai, a new face to my knowledge. Mai has got the whole package and then some when it comes to playing Elle. She’s got the dancing and she’s got the incredible voice to prove that she is Elle however she has something that not many actresses have. The role of Elle isn’t funny per se but the script is. The script relies a bit too heavily on blonde, bimbo and sorority stereotypes but it’s still funny. Mai flips that upside down because she is a brilliant comedic actress. I’ve never seen the role played in this capacity before and I love it so much that I’d say she’s one of the best. She took risks and made choices that paid off.
Legally Blonde the Musical is a lovely show for the summer and this cast under Thietje direction is superb. It’s powerful and inspirational while also hilarious.
Legally Blonde the Musical plays at Lyric Arts now through August 4. For more information on Lyric Arts’ upcoming season, click the 19-20 button below.