OMG you guys! Elle Woods is in San Diego!

San Diego Musical Theatre Brings the Bubbly-Choreography Charged Legally Blonde to the Stage 

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti 

Johnisa Breault and part of the Legally Blonde cast. Photo by Jason Sullivan

Legally Blonde The Musical
debuted on Broadway in 2007 and the touring production came to the San Diego Civic Theatre in 2010. This is the first time I have seen a regional production and I can say SDMT set the bar up and gifted audiences with a fun, high-paced production that also gave the essence and messaging of the story.

Based on the 2001 film starring Reese Witherspoon, Elle Woods, head of her sorority and popular girl in California, is enchanted by her boyfriend Warner. On their upcoming date, she gets ready for a highly anticipated marriage proposal to then have the surprising news. Warner is going to Harvard Law School and breaking up with Elle because she is "more of a Marilyn than a Jackie". Devastated, Elle aims to get him back and works her way into Harvard Law to start her plan.  

As with all formats, transitioning a book into a play, musical, or movie is tricky. After reading the book and seeing the musical, I am seriously afraid of what will happen with the upcoming Wicked film version. But, I digress... 'Blonde, also based on a novel, is way more than just a blonde woman, apparently not that smart, trotting around campuses to get her love back. The musical, with a Book by Heather Hach, Music, and Lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe & Nell Benjamin, directed and choreographed in San Diego by Xavier J. Bush, kept the essence of the original as mentioned above, and modernized it to current times adding the SDMT flare. The ensemble made up of Kaia Bugler, Diego Castro, Brice Cloke, Cole Fletcher, Giancarlo Lugo, Gabrielle Ocampo, Linsey Schreck, Joe Stein, Alyssa Lucero Vingerelli, Emma Woolley, Jackson Wright, and Kylie Young is bubbly and fresh performing fast-paced choreographies that totally set the effervescent mood guided by Michelle Miles's lighting design contouring the moves and giving space for the scene changes.

Legally Blonde.Photo by Jason Sullivan

Matthew Herman's set design pink, pink, pink is loft-like all across the stage with folding corners that come out to host different scenes dressed by Jennifer Jones Glor's props that worked well for the actors and embellished the visual. 

Johnisa Breault debuts with her first professional leading role as Elle Woods, belting out tuned-held notes enhanced with charisma and wit as well as a couple of winks and nods to the audience that rounded out her performance. Johnisa also performed mighty dance moves and high kicks showing her dance credentials. The note I would have is for her to enunciate louder as sometimes her volume would go down and you could not make out her dialogues. Eli Wood as the runaway boyfriend Warner Huntington III, is definitely more charming than his film counterpart, delivering good notes in the songs as bytes in the musical, guided by Lyndon Pugeda's musical direction that had everybody in tune along with Jordan Gray and Cole Atencio's sound design that flowed with the voices, the music, and the choreography.

Joy Newbegin and part of the cast of Legally Blonde. Photo Jason Sullivan
The musical is close to the movie replicating famous scenes like Elle's admission essay to Harvard that in 2024, is read through iPads versus printed files to the tune of What You Want. Fans of the famous "Bend and Snap" will have a hoot with the performance of the song that carries the same title showing a good time with Elle's Greek chorus with the also famous Delta Nu sorority girls Serena (Sophia LaRosh), Margot (Audrey Deubig), and Pilar (Megan Chua) along with Elle's beauty salon ride or die, Paulette Buonofuonte brought to the stage with an on-point interpretation by Bethany Slomka who also gifted the audience with a hilarious rendition of Ireland. 

Drew Bradford as well as his character, lawyer, and sidekick extraordinaire, Emmett Forrest, is very charming. Vivian Romero as the disoriented and uninformed Vivienne Kensington gives a new flare to the character people have associated in the past, as Romero grants a level of maturity to the role that aims more at questioning Elle than bullying her. Cara Tafolla as Enid Hoopes with a small but funny participation that gives game to the cast and the plot. Joy Newbegin as the butt-shaping master Brooke Wyndham delivers a mean choreography in Whipped into Shape jumping rope and doing tricks while singing to then deliver her lines practically unwinded. Robert J. Townsend has performed many roles throughout his career and it is refreshing to see the acting ability and history on the stages reflected in his impressive portrayal of Professor Callahan, from the intention to the tone giving true, real histrionic seniority.

The Greek chorus ladies need a show of their own as LaRosh, Deubig, and Chua are enchanting while interpreting the songs and doing the choreography. They also flaunt Chong Mi Land's costume design choosing colorful, stylish pieces. My top picks in the wardrobe design were absolutely everything that Kaia Bugler wore, -everything- from the ripped jeans to the high heels to the yellow top and the wardrobe reveal with Elle Woods's name. The court suit Elle wears for her Delta Nu sister's trial was not my favorite. I get the statement aimed at using the color blue versus the famous pink but with all the pieces shown before, a more popping ensemble statement would have been better. The hair/makeup design by Monique Hanson used natural tones that enhanced the facial features looking good and working with each character. The long blonde wig Johnisa Breault uses for Elle suits the character and makes an impact, the rest of the wigs need better shaping and tightness.

Xavier J. Bush's direction with assistant director & Choreographer Melissa Glasgow, put each piece into place using SDMT's choreography power and powering it into full gear with good interpretations.

The production is balanced and well-cast and while keeping the essence of the story, it also aims to deliver the important topics in Legally Blonde like how misleading stereotypes can be, standing up against sexual harassment in school and work, not staying quiet and most importantly, knowing one's self-worth and the ability to succeed.

Currently playing until June 2 in the Convoy Area. For more information on performance times and ticket prices, please click here

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