Once in a while a leading role will be played by someone so well-cast that the play seems to be made for her. Jessica Crouch is a happy example of that perfect match as she stars in the PCPA Theaterfest musical “Legally Blonde.” She’s a knockout — beautiful, a fine singer, dancer and actor — as she brings a memorable character to life.
Elle Wood, a seemingly air-headed sorority girl, transforms herself into a skillful attorney, all in the name of love, in the original novel, which became a popular film and has now been expanded into a high-energy musical. A large cast that includes some of PCPA’s finest is joined by a stage-filling ensemble of singers and dancers and a couple of scene-stealing dogs. Michael Jenkinson directs and choreographs the show in his usual high-spirited manner. Callum Morris is musical director.
Elle, a gorgeous blonde who always wears pink (her “signature color”) and carries her Chihuahua in her purse, majored in fashion merchandising at UCLA. In “Oh My God You Guys,” a manic opening song and dance number, she and her sorority sisters celebrate their anticipation that Elle’s boyfriend Warner Huntington III is about to propose. She’s looking forward to being the ideal wife, to “make a happy home and try not to look my age.” But Warner, played by Connor Bond, has his own life plan and it doesn’t include her. He expects to get a law degree, become a senator by the time he’s 30, and maybe become president. He says Elle isn’t “serious” enough for a first lady.
Heartbroken, Elle decides to go to Harvard Law School and win him back. She studies hard and gets in. There she encounters the tough law professor Callahan (Michael Tremblay) who sets the scene for his students with a song, “Blood in the Water.” Elle discovers that Warner already has a more “serious” new girlfriend with connections, played by Karin Hendricks. She and other classmates ridicule and trick Elle, but one, Emmett Forrest (Chris Cooke), takes her under his wing and helps her study. That’s the beginning of her journey to self-discovery, which takes some interesting turns along the way.
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Every step in the scenario is accompanied by a song or a dance, or both. The ensemble of singing sorority sisters acts as a Greek chorus that only Elle (and the audience) can see. The dance numbers are rousing, with one of the best being “Whipped into Shape,” with the ensemble using whips as jump ropes. Sarah Girard leads the dancers as a fitness guru whom Elle defends in court. The songs often have humorous lyrics, such as a courtroom song-and-dance piece that asks, “Is he gay or European?” It turns out he’s both.
There is some high comedy as Elle develops a friendship with salon owner Paulette, played delightfully by Elizabeth Stuart, who is comically charming as she tells her life story and tries to get her dog Rufus back from her ex. Rufus is an audience pleaser.
One of the funniest moments in the show is a short one as Andrew Philpot, a PCPA favorite, crosses the stage as a UPS delivery man with a macho swagger that cracks up the audience. Paulette calls it “walking porn” and falls for him.
The novel “Legally Blonde” by Amanda Brown, who studied at Stanford Law School, was made into a film starring Reese Witherspoon. The story was adapted to the stage by Heather Hach, with music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Neil Benjamin. The bright, lighthearted style of the production embellishes a more serious tale of empowerment, overcoming stereotypes and tackling a dream. (It was surprising to me to read in the program notes that Harvard Law School did not admit women until 1950.)
Crouch gives Elle’s character both charisma and dimension as her wardrobe goes from pink dresses to navy suits, then back to pink again as she affirms her self-confidence in her legal career. An Equity actor from New York, she has played the role before. This is an entertaining show for pre-teens and up, but especially good for teens, who may identify with Elle in the various phases of her journey and see her as a role model.