"Legally Blonde, the Musical," now playing at the 5th Avenue Theatre, is a pink, frothy concoction, more sugar than spice, more bubble gum than pink champagne, which delivers nonetheless an evening of solid entertainment.

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Performance review |

“Legally Blonde, The Musical,” now playing at the 5th Avenue Theatre, is a sweet, pink frothy concoction, more sugar than spice, more bubble gum than pink champagne, which delivers nonetheless an evening of solid entertainment.

Based on the popular movie of the same name, “Blonde” remixes several familiar genres and clichés in a kind of shorthand that keeps the play ticking along: Underdog makes good. Dizzy bimbo reinvents herself as brainy lawyer. True love will be found in nerdy best friend rather than arrogant hunk. Success lies in remaining true to yourself. Cute Chihuahuas are irresistible.

The story follows a Malibu sorority princess and fashion-design student, Elle Woods (the charming Becky Gulsvig), who hits the books to get into Harvard Law School in pursuit of the wrong man (Jeff Mclean as the selfish Warner Huntington III.) Once there, she is befriended by Emmett (D.B. Bonds), an upperclassman who has worked his way up from the wrong side of the tracks. In an attempt to remake herself in the image of Huntington III’s new brunette girlfriend, Vivienne (Megan Lewis), Elle decides to dye her own hair brown. However, her hairdresser (Natalie Joy Johnson) talks her out of changing her look — and then steals the scene with a song about her dreams of Ireland, setting up, on the way, a second-act Riverdance gag.

Elle eventually impresses the lawyer Professor Callahan (Michael Rupert), who hires her as an intern. Through her knowledge of perms, shopping and men’s fashion (producing one of the show’s funniest songs, “Is he Gay or European”), and her sorority connections — prime suspect Brooke (Coleen Sexton) used to be a Delta Nu — she solves a case and earns a big grandstand finale.

There are comedy-of-manners laughs to be had from plopping a character into an alien world, and book writer Heather Hach delivers some as Elle chatters on about how “orange is not the new pink” to uncomprehending law students. Costumer Gregg Barnes and scenic designer David Rockwell also have some fun, as Elle, dressed head-to-toe in pink, takes notes in a heart-shaped notebook while surrounded by somberly dressed classmates tapping gray laptops.

Music and lyrics team Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin come up with some clever and funny songs, (although some, such as “Whipped into Shape” and “What you Want” fall flat) and are at their best catching colloquial speech patterns in numbers such as “Omigod You Guys,” or in the Henry-Higgins-Mack-the-Knife rhythms of Professor Callahan’s “Blood in the Water.”

It is director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell, however, who never lets this fluff flag. He keeps it grounded and moving forward with well-staged dance numbers and well-timed moments, whether the entrance of a muscular UPS man (Ven Daniel) or of two cute scene-stealing dogs. The audience on opening night, many of whom were wearing pink themselves in honor of the occasion, seemed to have a thoroughly good time and gave the cast a standing ovation.

Mary Murfin Bayley: marybayley@aol.com