The current touring production of Legally Blonde, the Musical, now onstage at Theater Under the Stars, has to live up to the original film starring Reese Witherspoon (perfection), and all of the previous national tours (each one excellent). Add to that the fact that most of the audience is wearing pink (like the show’s star) and the majority know every word to every song, and it’s obvious why the show can’t afford a single mistake.
Luckily, Hannah Bonnett, who appears as Elle Woods, along with Woody White (as Emmett) and the rest of the large cast expertly deliver a high-energy performance that manages to capture the fun and enthusiasm—and nuances—the story requires.
Quick plot summary: Elle is a lovely blonde sorority girl who’s in love with BMOC Warner. As graduation nears, Elle is certain that dreamboat Warner is going to propose. Instead, he channels his inner JFK and breaks up with Elle by saying he’s going to Harvard Law School and in order to be successful he needs a serious “Jackie” and not a beautiful but dumb “Marilyn.” Devastated, Elle decides to follow Warner to Harvard and win him back.
Thankfully, Elle meets the intelligent but scruffy Emmett, who helps her realize she’s smarter than everyone thinks she is. With his help, Elle lands an intern spot at a law firm working on a big trial and proves herself by winning the case.
Hannah Bonnett has all the necessary charm, wit, and vivacity needed to play Elle. She also has a wonderful singing voice. Many of Elle’s songs are purposely nasally (she’s a squeaking sorority girl, after all). Songs like “Omigod You Guys” depend more on timing and delivery than on a gorgeous voice. But Bonnett, just two years out of college, does have a gorgeous voice with excellent range, and when she’s allowed (as with “So Much Better” and the “Legally Blonde” duet with Woody White’s Emmett), she belts it out.
The show rests on Bonnett’s shoulders, and she carries it off beautifully.
The large supporting cast features more masterful voices, including Ashely Morton who plays Paulette, a beautician who befriends Elle. There’s also Alexis Loiselle who appears as Brooke, a woman accused of murdering her billionaire husband.
And Pablo Pernia and Brandon Moreno add a comic LGBTQ twist. Pernia plays Nikos, a witness in the trial who claims he’s been having an affair with Brooke. After Elle’s gaydar goes off, she tries to convince the legal team that he’s lying on the stand. That leads to the hysterical “There! Right! There!” in which the team debates if Nikos is gay or just European. It’s decided he’s both gay and European when his lover, Carlos, played by Moreno, outs him in the courtroom.
Legally Blonde, the Musical is a fun romp with rousing dance numbers and fabulous songs that also sneaks in a few touching moments.
Don’t miss Out@TUTS on Thursday, April 13th, where LGBTQ+ musical theatre fans can enjoy a night of live music, free bites, and drink specials hosted by Regina Thorne-DuBois. Meet the cast and crew and celebrate an inclusive Houston.
WHAT: Legally Blonde, the Musical
WHEN: Through April 16
WHERE: The Hobby Center for Performing Arts, 800 Bagby
INFO: tuts.com, 713-558-8887