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Theater Review: This Blonde is Headed Straight to Harvard:

The Pantages Theatre is bursting with sorority girl glee as Legally Blonde; The Musical hits the stage for a limited run ending September 6. The laugh factor is high here, but those with an aversion to the fashion-obsessed, omigod-uttering, twenty-something set might find the cringe factor equally elevated. Wear pink if you want to show solidarity with the glossy protagonist.

It’s all about Elle Woods (Becky Gulsvig), a good-time girl from Malibu with visions of a fairy tale wedding dancing in her head. Elle’s undying devotion to her would-be husband, Warner Huntington III (Jeff McLean), is rivaled only by the affinity she has for her sorority sisters, the color pink, parties, bitchin’ pumps and her lap dog. As she prepares to become Warner’s kept wife, Elle instead discovers her future hubby has other plans. He’s headed to Harvard, where blondes with West Coast sensibilities are taboo, thus Elle gets the heave-ho. After a short downward spiral into the disappointment doldrums, our shiny-haired protagonist rallies, conjuring up the discipline to ace the Harvard entrance exam and make a swift move to the brunette-infested East Coast to lasso her man. Will Elle get the guy? Will Harvard eat her alive? Will Warner realize what he gave up?

It’s fun to watch the answers to these questions unfold, if a wee bit grating at times. Gulsvig is positively sweet as Elle, an underdog with perfect makeup. When her sorority sisters appear as a Greek Chorus of sorts, it’s a funny bit, but their shrill, you-go-girl encouragement gets slightly tiring after more than two hours. Still, the show is worth seeing just for the fun of it, especially if you’ve ever been a woman scorned.

Los Angeles is an apt setting for the show, since the original motion picture starring Reese Witherspoon had its world premiere here in 2001. The Pantages run marks the Broadway production’s Los Angeles premiere, after which it will shimmy southward for a stop in Costa Mesa, marking the second stop on a national tour. The Broadway production earned seven 2007 Tony Award nominations and ten 2007 Drama Desk Award nominations.

Like the Broadway production, the touring production is directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, who has loads of fun with the silliness of sorority life. Kenneth Posner’s lighting and Gregg Barnes’ costumes are shining examples of craft.

At the Pantages Theatre through September 6. Call 1.800.982.2787. 

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