Review: Comtra’s Legally Blonde, a celebration of musicals and coming together to create and experience them!

Reviewed by Laura Caton

If you’re anything like me, the past 18 months have left you feeling tired, rundown, and listless. But luckily, if you’re anything like me, the production of Legally Blonde currently running at Comtra Theatre will go a long way toward curing what ails you.

The story of Legally Blonde is probably familiar from the 2001 movie starring Reese Witherspoon. Be warned if you are not, as you might find the musical’s references and quick-cut pacing somewhat tricky to follow. Sorority queen and general ray of sunshine Elle Woods is dumped by her aspiring Kennedy of a boyfriend, Warner, for being “more a Marilyn than a Jackie” before heading off to Harvard Law. Determined to win him back, Elle uses her perky charm to gain a spot at Harvard. In her attempts to prove her seriousness, she gains new friends, new beaus, and a new self-confidence based as much on her legal expertise as in her fashion sense.

The musical adaptation requires an almost superhuman amount of energy. The talented folks in Comtra’s production are up to the task: they fill the small stage (and, occasionally, the theater’s aisles) with their enthusiasm.

It’s been a challenging year for anyone who loves theater. The sheer joy of performing again is evident in every note Legally Blonde’s cast sings.

The energy does, at times, dip from optimism into frenzy, but on the whole, the production does an excellent job of being cheerful without cloying. This is due in large part to the fact that its energy is matched by the smart choices behind it: its direction, by Brandon Keller, which makes good use of a limited and somewhat awkward space; its costume design (a collective effort between the director and producers) which must have used every stitch of pink clothing available in Allegheny County; and the show’s excellent cast.

Legally Blonde offers a wealth of parts ranging from Elle’s ever-upbeat Delta Nu sisters to her staid Harvard classmates. The Comtra cast is excellent across the board. To name a few: Kristin Pacelli’s Paulette is warm and hilarious; Jeremy McCawley’s Emmett is bemused and decisive by turns. Jake Grantz’s Professor Callahan provides the much-needed counterbalance of grounded, slightly menacing seriousness to the rest of the glittery proceedings. Melina Walko’s Brooke Wyndham manages to make belting a Broadway number while jumping rope seem as easy as sitting in the audience watching it.

Jordyn Walker as Elli Woods – Photo courtesy Comtra

But, at the end of the day, the musical rests heavily on the shoulders of whoever steps into Elle’s pink pumps, and Jordyn Walker is perfectly suited for that responsibility. It’s no easy task to revisit an iconic character made famous by a much-beloved actress, but Walker finds a way to make Elle her own. Her Disney princess eyes and remarkable ability to dance in stilettos are matched by her comedic timing and powerhouse voice. Legally Blonde presents the world as seen through Elle’s rose-colored glasses, and it’s hard to imagine a better guide.

It’s been a long, lonely season without live performance. Comtra’s Legally Blonde, with its maximalist energy, serves as a celebration not only of musicals but of coming together to create and experience them.

There was a smile on every face in the house as the lights came up at the end of the show—and I’m sure it’ll put a smile on yours as well.

Comtra Theatre’s production of Legally Blonde runs August 6 and 7 plus August 13 and 14. For tickets visit: https://comtratheatre.ticketleap.com

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