- Photo by Joan Marcus
It's a musical with a message: “Being yourself never goes out of style.” That’s not the only thing you’ll learn at this $5-cupcake-of-a-show. Below, the lesser-known lessons of Legally Blonde.
1. In an audience of women, dogs on stage trump shirtless men. These dogs got more of a reaction from the audience when they first walked on stage than Cate Blanchett did in A Streetcar Named Desire at the Kennedy Center last October. Women gasped. Girls cooed and awwed. As for the dogs, they mostly just walked across the stage on leashes, or sat in handbags. Bruiser the chihuahua and Rufus the bulldog were good at hitting their cues, thanks to the diligence of trainer William Berloni, who wrote a book called Broadway Tails. The shirtless men were good at hitting their cues too — gyrating around a desk as Elle tried to study for her LSAT — thanks to the diligence of their trainer, dance captain Sara Andreas.
2. ...But a UPS guy in short shorts trumps any dog. Yes, the fervent audience of Legally Blonde enjoyed the chihuahua and bulldog, but what they enjoyed more was a guy with a big package. That’s an actual line spoken by Hot UPS Guy Kyle (Ven Daniel), who struts his stuff in some short shorts. What can brown do for you? Make the women of Legally Blonde go crazy, apparently, especially when he bends over. Which leads us to the next lesson:
3. Contradictions are upheld in the Legally Blonde court of law. Throughout the musical, Elle Woods demands to be taken seriously. So let’s take this seriously for a minute: There are enough contradictions in this musical to make your head spin. For example, one message of the show is that it’s never OK to objectify anyone. And that’s great, until you realize that the women of the show devote a great deal of time to objectifying men. And that an entire sequence, the “Bend and Snap,” is devoted to a move that Elle teaches Paulette so that the aforementioned UPS guy will objectify her. Then there’s the feminist message of the show, which depends heavily on your definition of feminism. Elle shows girls how to be smart, loyal, independent and driven. But feminism in Legally Blonde has to come in a pretty, hetero package, apparently: A Gloria Steinem-worshipping, overweight lesbian is mocked throughout the entire show. When asked about the feminist overtones in Legally Blonde the Musical, Natalie Joy Johnson, who plays Paulette, told me she wasn’t sure the show had an agenda, but also said, “It’s cool that little girls and their moms see the show and come out inspired.” But with all these inconsistencies, they might just come out confused.
4. Even though Elle wants to be taken seriously, this musical acknowledges the people that won't. Each time I thought I’d reached my eye-roll threshold, Legally Blonde would throw me a bone. It knows that it is a “giant pink confection,” in the words of Johnson, and that some of its audience members are averse to cavities. So every once in a while, there’s a knowing joke to reel in the cynics, such as in Elle and Warner’s dinner scene, when the couple goes back and forth nearly a dozen times about how much they love each other. “Tonight’s just perfect.” “No, you’re perfect." “No, you,” “No you.” “No, you.” And finally, when we’re about to reach our breaking point, Elle says, “I’m even annoying myself.” We’re with you!
5. There are people who will thaw a plate of shrimp in a bathroom sink at Wolf Trap. This happened! Your faithful correspondent was washing her hands in the women’s restroom, when two girls in their late teens walked in carrying a party-size platter of shrimp, complete with cocktail sauce. “We just need to thaw them under some warm water,” one girl said to the other, putting the platter in the bathroom sink. As clean as the Wolf Trap bathrooms might be, a protip for lawn section picnickers: This is probably not sanitary. Next time, maybe you should just stick with sandwiches. Or cupcakes.