‘Legally Blonde’ musical in Novato is ‘100 percent fun

[Woody’s Rating: ★★★★½

Hairdresser Paulette Bonafonte´ (Dani Innocenti Beem) checks blonde tresses of Elle Woods (Claudia Shapiro) before attempting to dye them. Photo by Katie Wickes.

After “Legally Blonde: The Musical” ended, an ultra-enthusiastic fan leapt into the arms of an actor, in the process accidentally pushing him into me.

I fell backward onto the stage, landing on my right butt cheek.

But even the instant soreness couldn’t kill my enjoyment of the opening night performance at the Novato Theater Company.

Claudia Shapiro is downright spectacular in the lead role as Elle Woods, who follows her former boyfriend from Southern Cal to Harvard Law School in a futile attempt to win him back.

A veritable triple threat, Shapiro sings, dances and spans an emotional gamut from anguish to glee.

At Harvard Law, where she’s charmed her way in (without paying anyone a 2019-type bribe to do so), Elle, a fashion-and-makeup expert, battles female stereotypes, her peers, her profs and her ex (who’d dumped her because she wasn’t serious enough).

Much of the time wearing pink this ‘n’ that and having a style only inches short of bobbleheaded ditzy.

Does the fluffy being-yourself-never-goes-out-of-style storyline connect to any reality I’m aware of? Nope.

Especially when Elle becomes, without training or even book-learning, a courtroom ace in a murder trial.

Does that by any stretch of the imagination impede my enjoyment factor? Nope.

Shapiro, by the way, is abundantly supported by Dani Innocenti Beem as horny hairdresser Paulette Bonafonte´ and Alison Peltz as Brooke Wyndham, a flawless jump-roping Jane Fonda-workout clone accused of killing her husband.

(Full disclosure: Peltz, who is absolutely terrific in “Blonde,” was one of four singers I’d hired a while back, for my big-date birthday party, to perform tunes my wife and I had written. That hire in no way impacted my evaluation of “terrific.”)

Outstanding, too, in dual cameo roles are Victor Schutz as Kyle (and Dewey) and Ryan Moore as Aaron (and Nikos).

Add to that mix a fantasy Greek Chorus that provides sporadic commentary — and the separate appearances of two pooches who must have taken acting classes emphasizing being mellowly silent.

All, in turn, are supported marvelously by director Jenny Boynton, who makes sure the just-under-two hour show speeds along like a SMART train (without bumping into anyone), by Marilyn Izdebski who misses none of her 250 lighting cues, by Kathy Kingman whose fun-filled costumes run another gamut (from Elle’s signature glitzy pink outfits to the flimsy whites cheerleaders adore to the olive-drab shorts of a deliveryman — some with 15-second changes that require four people to pull off), and by Katie Wickes’ whimsical choreography (she tells me, not incidentally, that it isn’t tough to inject lightness into dance if you know what you’re going for — in this case, slapstick and stop-action moves).

Clever, meanwhile, is the best word to describe lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin.

Yes, the Marin Musical Theatre Company production is a modern-day Cinderella tale with feminist overtones, undertones and links to virtually every possible female plaint about being second-class citizens.

And although “Blonde,” replete with 19 sprightly musical numbers, contains zero references to the more modern #MeToo movement, it does provide allusions to wish-fulfillment attitudes of bygone decades (including a handful of outdated references — such as Gloria Steinem, for example).

The show begins and ends, and is chock-full in between, with high-energy bounciness that’s a proverbial joy to behold, guaranteed to put a smile on your face even if every word isn’t discernible.

Its book, written by Heather Hach, is based on a novel by Amanda Brown and the 2001 MGM movie that starred Reese Witherspoon (which the nonsensical plotline closely follows).

Last season I adored the MMTC musical production of “Spring Awakening.”

This show in contrast may be as deep as the shallow end of a drained pool, yet “Legally Blonde”  is 100 percent fun.

I  liked it. My wife liked it. So did our 12-year-old granddaughter, who scribbled in my notepad that it was “comical” and “humorous” — and then orally added, “inspiring.”

Boynton and Wickes, the company’s co-founders, should be proud.

“Legally Blonde: The Musical” will run at the Novato Theater, 5420 Nave Drive, Suite C., through July 28. Night performances, 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; matinees, 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $27-$50 . Information: 415-233-0263 or info@marinmusicals.org.

Contact Woody Weingarten, a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle, at www.vitalitypress.com/or voodee@sbcglobal.net.

About the Author

Woody WeingartenWoody Weingarten, who can be reached at www.vitalitypress.com/ or voodee@sbcglobal.net, can’t remember when he couldn’t talk — or play with words. His first poem was published in high school but when his hormones announced the arrival of adulthood, he figured he’d rather eat than rhyme. So he switched to journalism. And whadda ya know, the bearded, bespectacled fella has used big, small and hyphenated words professionally since jumpstarting his career in New Yawk City more than 60 years ago. Today the author of the book “Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner’s breast cancer” is also a reviewer-critic, blogger and publisher — despite allegedly being retired. During his better-paid years as a wage slave he was an executive editor and writer for daily and weekly publications in California, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. He won writing awards for public service and investigation, features, columns, editorials and news. Woody also has published weekly and monthly newspapers, and written a national column for “Audio” magazine. A graduate of Colgate University, he owned a public relations/ad agency and managed an advertising publication. The father of two and grandfather of three, he and his wife, Nancy Fox, have lived in San Anselmo in Marin County for three decades. He figures they'll stay.View all posts by Woody Weingarten →