Review: ‘Legally Blonde’ the Musical is a Sweet and Sassy Homage to its Film Counterpart

Elle Woods bend-and-snapped her way through Milwaukee this weekend.

The Broadway musical Legally Blonde, which made its first stop in Milwaukee at the Riverside Theater for two shows Saturday, effortlessly blends the legal jargon of the courtroom with the high fashion of the sorority house in just a little over two hours of pink-hued fun.

Legally Blonde, based on the 2001 film of the same name (which spawned a sequel, with another in production), starring Reese Witherspoon, Luke Wilson and Selma Blair, was adapted as a musical play in 2007. Directed by Jeffrey B. Moss, and filled with humor, positivity and messages about the importance of friendship and self-love, the production is a sweet treat for audience members of all ages.

The musical boasted a superb cast of actors, singers and dancers. Maris McCulley seamlessly carried off the lead role of the beautiful, bubbly and incredibly resourceful and persistent Elle Woods (played onscreen by Witherspoon). James Oblak was well-cast as her ambitious, handsome and conceited boyfriend Warner, who demonstrated soulful vocal chops in the romantic musical number “Serious.”

Maris McCulley as Elle Woods, with her Delta Nu sorority sisters; photo by Melissa Miller

After Warner, who is headed to Harvard Law School, breaks up with Elle, whom he considers too frivolous, she is determined to win him back and prove him wrong. Using her smarts and ingenuity, Elle is admitted to Harvard, where she meets unlikely allies, challenges sexism and stereotypes and learns a lot about herself in the process.

Woody Minshew was affable as nice guy Emmett, who can’t help but fall for Elle’s charms, and Berlande Millus played snooty mean girl-turned-friend (and Warner’s new girlfriend) Vivienne with finesse. Among the notable performances by supporting actors were Jill Taylor Anthony as big-haired, street-smart but unlucky-in-love hairstylist Paulette; Megan Hoxie as fitness celebrity and murder suspect Brooke Wyndham, and Christopher Carsten as Callahan, a sexist law professor who can’t keep his hands to himself.

Featuring the choreography of Bob Richard, the high-energy musical numbers, (with music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin), the Milwaukee production included the sorority sister romp “Omigod You Guys,” the Celtic-inspired song “Ireland” and “Bend and Snap,” an homage to a sassy dance move. At times, there appeared to be minor technical difficulties with the microphones, but overall the sound was clear.

Maris McCulley as Elle Woods and other members of the “Legally Blonde” Broadway musical cast; photo by Melissa Miller

Derek Nye Lockwood’s costumes — Elle Woods’ hot pink suit, heeled boots and tops, for example — contrasted nicely with the law students’ conservative navy suits. The scenery, which was designed by Randel Wright and included a convincing courtroom and hair salon, incorporated realistic-seeming video elements designed by Jonathan Infante, like the Delta Nu sorority house and a starry, moonlit night. Kirk Baran-Bookman’s lighting design further enhanced the production’s bright colors and effectively illuminated the fabulous cast.