Author: Dr. Shari Stacey, Washington County News
Legally Blonde: The Musical is lighting up the Main Stage this summer at the historic Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia. Directed by Richard Rose, with music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin, and book by Heather Hach, the play (based on the popular movie) is the big production for the summer repertory season. It does not disappoint.
While the sets are minimal, the cast is large and energetic, the music enjoyable, and the costumes delightful (and largely pink). Add two adorable dogs who never miss a cue, and you have a great way to spend an afternoon or evening.
The story of Elle Woods (played with a real joie de vivre by Ellie Mooney) is one of the rich, underestimated young woman with a compassionate heart and a different way of seeing things. When her Harvard-bound boyfriend (played by Justin Tyler Lewis) dumps her to find a more suitable wife for his political ambitions, the broken-hearted merchandising major decides against all odds to take the LSAT and follow Warner Huntington, III, to Harvard law school. She succeeds, changing lives and forcing those around her to stop judging her by her haute couture pink outfits and designer dog, and to see her as a capable, intelligent woman. So, while the play, with its bouncy musical numbers and gleeful dance routines, might sound like fluffy entertainment, there is a much stronger message here, about love, self-esteem, and eventual validation.
Ellie Mooney, as Elle, plays the fashion diva with a lot of earnestness and charisma. Her voice is lovely and she commands attention with just a look or by striking a pose. She has strong support from the singing Delta Nus, her Harvard classmates (most notably Emmett, played by Sean Campos), and Professor Callahan (played by Nick Koesters), who seems to have all the aplomb and dignity of a man of letters but who turns out to be a sleaze (underscoring the play’s major theme: don’t judge a book by its designer cover).
Special kudos to the production’s canine stars: Jasmine Belle (a rescued chihuahua-dachshund mix who is a therapy dog when she is not stealing scenes in Legally Blonde) and the adorable Spud (a big bulldog with a lot of stage presence).