Legally Blonde, first a novel, then a popular film, and now a Broadway musical, was presented last week at The Granada Theatre as part of the Broadway in Santa Barbara series. In Legally Blonde, sorority president Elle Woods gets dumped by her country-club boyfriend. (If he’s going to be a senator, he needs to marry a “Jackie,” not a “Marilyn.”) Elle ups her game to follow him to Harvard Law School to prove she can be “serious” and win him back.
The musical offers a sunny vibe of halfheartedly concerned female empowerment. Elle (Maris McCulley) is a firecracker onstage, the drum major of a giggling, sorority-girl floorshow. Ample dance breaks showcase an ensemble of energetic performers in big-ticket glitter-bomb musical numbers, but substance is missing in all that sparkle. On the first day of class, Professor Callahan (Chris Carsten) tells his students they’ll need to be sharks to be successful in the courtroom. Ideally, Elle finds her inner shark (who can still be pink) by learning to respect herself without sacrificing her personality. Too bad character development is replaced by multiple makeover scenes in a lazy attempt to equate the changing of clothes with the evolution of character. However, the real problem is indecision of tone: It wavers between sincerity and an irreverent camp-fest, making it difficult to determine if songs like “Gay or European” are hilarious drag numbers or tone-deaf jokes left over from the ’90s.
It’s not all bad; the production is fun and frivolous, and it certainly offers many real laughs. The sorority-girl “Greek chorus” is clever, and Brook Wyndham’s (Megan Hoxie) aggressive jump-rope workout routine is impressive. Overall, it’s light and inoffensive, but there’s very little depth — which is problematic for a show about a woman trying to prove she’s deep. Legally Blonde: The Musical represents what Elle Woods is before her Law School transformation: Malibu Barbie with Daddy’s credit card.