Review: ‘Legally Blonde’ at Argyle Theatre, Babylon, N.Y.

By Jonathan Spira on 26 July 2019
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Anyone producing “Legally Blonde – The Musical” is up against one big challenge: How will the lead stack up to Reese Witherspoon’s 2001 portrayal of Elle Woods in the movie that inspired the Broadway show. Witherspoon’s presence on the silver screen makes it clear why – be it at the sorority house or in a courtroom – the Elle Woods character will command attention. Not so much in the musical version, however at the Argyle Theatre in Babylon, New York.

The movie held great appeal to this twenty-something gay boy despite its reliance on ugly gay stereotypes. Still, in the post #MeToo era, the idea that a pretty in pink sorority president could win a murder trial in her first year of law school and topple a sexist law professor (David Engel as Professor Callahan) who runs a “billion-dollar” practice still holds great appeal.

In the Argyle production, Kirby Lunn does a competent job of making the audience believe one can get into Harvard Law by sending a scented application to the admissions office with the hopes of following and regaining her Harvard-bound boyfriend, Warner Huntington III (Jordan Litz), as she attempts to integrate pink into the Harvard dress code.

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Tyler MiClean is a standout as Emmett Forrest, the 3L who becomes a mentor to Elle. In scenes such as the duet between Lunn and MiClean at the door to Elle’s room (“Chip on My Shoulder”), the raw energy and sexual tension between the two became palpable.

While the first act comes off as somewhat muddled – a situation not helped by the simplistic and uninspiring set by Front Row Theatrical – given the tighter pace, the second act almost seems to have a different director.

“Legally Blonde” requires lively choreography, something that wasn’t always apparent in the show, which was directed and choreographed by Antoinette DiPietropolo. The prison exercise scene led by wrongfully charged fitness guru Brooke Wyndham (played down to the letter of the movie by Mollie Downes) works well; the song “There! Right! There!” commonly referred to as “Gay or European,” was spot on. The Riverdancing seemed out of place, and the uninspired Greek chorus of sorority sisters (which worked so well in the Broadway production), needs an emergency salon visit (where is Leslie Kritzer when you need her?).

Others in the cast including Jill Taylor Anthony as Paulette, the salon owner who plays therapist to Elle, Jamie Farish as Kyle the hunky UPS man, her love interest, and Marie Eife as Vivienne Kensington, Warner’s Harvard girlfriend who eventually realizes what he is up to, presented a reasonably competent performance, as do Caesar as Bruiser and Stitch as Rufus, Elle’s and Paulette’s canine companions.

Missing from the show was Sundeep Agrawal Padamadan, one of the three intimidating law students we meet at the beginning and the one whose lines always made me laugh (“In my country I was a benevolent dictator, until the coup d’etat. Now I am studying at Harvard Law until my inevitable return. And you may call me Your Majesty.”)

The bathroom cum courtroom set was replicated perfectly down to the use of toilet paper as steno paper but the scene was brought down a notch by Ashley Gale Munzik as the judge, who played the role as a poor caricature of a judge on a reality TV show.

In the end, Elle’s knowledge of hair treatments as opposed to strict legal precedents frees her client and may have put an end to Professor Callahan’s lucrative practice as well as his predatory ways. Elle can clearly have it all, and at the end, she can wear pink (in a stunning outfit from costume designer Travis Chinick that beautifully duplicates what Witherspoon wore in the movie) in court.

THE DETAILS

Legally Blonde
Argyle Theatre
34 W Main Street
Babylon, N.Y. 11702
Runtime: 2 hours and 30 min.
www.argyletheatre.com

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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