If you like your musicals with a touch of camp and lots of pink, then you’ll relish in the delight that is Cumberland Theatre’s production of “Legally Blonde: The Musical.” With lyrics and music by Lawrence O’Keefe & Neil Benjamin, this small theatre’s presentation, led by Kimberli Rowley (director), Danny Durr (choreographer), and Chris E. McCabe (musical direction), packs the popular story of Elle Woods’s self-discovery and self-improvement with as much pizzazz as the sparkle in an engagement ring. I had the chance to catch a matinee performance on Sunday, July 14, and left feeling that it was a delicious way to spend an afternoon.
… packs the popular story of Elle Woods’s self-discovery and self-improvement with as much pizzazz as the sparkle in an engagement ring.
The story circles around Elle Woods’s decision to enter law school in order to make herself into who she thinks her boyfriend wants—smart, sophisticated, beige—only to arrive and find that things won’t work out quite as she planned. Not only does it not work out as planned, but she learns that discipline and determination can get you to where you need to go. If you’ve seen the movie and are a fan of Reese Witherspoon’s performance as Elle, then you’ll adore Mackenzie Newbury in the lead. She possesses charm and poise throughout her numbers, with a voice that carried throughout the small theatre up to the balcony. Song standouts included “Serious,” “Bend and Snap,” and “Legally Blonde.” Ms. Newbury’s excellent timing in delivering lines helped to make many jokes land. After the play, I remarked to a friend that the energy of an audience often transmits itself up to the stage. Actors can tell when jokes aren’t landing or certain elements are not picked up by audience members; however, the music more than made up for any jokes that did not work.
“Legally Blonde: The Musical” fuses elements of Reggae, Pop, and Jazz to a dizzying and delightful effect. With a strong cast, those with large singing roles did not disappoint; however, one smaller role deserves recognition, that is, the role of Enid, a lesbian, social justice warrior played by Alexandra Hemphill, whose voice made my jaw drop. And while the theatre is a bit small for the size of the musical, Durr’s choreography handles the multi–genre work with panache. I was quite impressed with the cast’s ability to pull off a Broadway musical within the space of the theatre, more than likely due to minimal set designs.
The set designs were often moved about by the assistance from the cast, which proves the point concerning the collaborative spirit of the theatre and the amount of work it takes to bring something so large as “Legally Blonde” to the stage. Lighting reflected the choice colors associated with a character like Elle Woods—bright neon pinks, lush purples, cobalt blues. From a technical point of view, I saw nothing wrong with set designs and found the minimalism to provide space for the imagination.
It must be remarked that many of the themes that dealt with LGBTQIA questions, particularly with the number “There! Right There!,” warmed my heart and seemed to be received well. Overall, I had a positive experience and would highly recommend attending a performance for the campiness of it all. It’s a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon, or an evening on the weekend with friends and family.
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes, with one intermission.
Advisory: Adult themes, recommended for those 13 and up.
“Legally Blonde: The Musical” plays July 11th-28th at the Cumberland Theatre –101 Johnson Street, Cumberland, MD 21502. For tickets visit online.