Nothing stops Elle Woods, unquenchable heroine of “Legally Blonde” avatars and sequels – not the indifference of her ex-boyfriend, her underestimation by a sexist professor or challenges of life as a Harvard University law student.
So Haley Henderson, who’s capping a break-out season at CPCC Summer Theatre in the musical, is an apt choice. Neither recurrent microphone problems on opening night, the flimsiness of the character nor lunatic plot developments in the second act prevented her from shining through at last.
The show is built around Elle. Except for Paulette, the lovelorn beautician who first befriends her (scene-stealing belter Olivia Edge), the characters are all as thin as communion wafers. The three main men merely dump her, abuse her and pick her up emotionally; supportive girls from Elle’s sorority have names but form an indistinguishable, cheerful chorus without identities.
So the show depends on Elle’s strong voice, indefatigable zest and winning personality, and Henderson supplies those qualities. She seems liberated by her blonde wig, fully cutting loose for the first time this summer, and her response is fun to watch. She’s most appealing opposite Emmett (Michael Moore), the young lawyer who likes her, and Moore is the only person in the cast to stay on her energy wavelength.
The first act works best, as Elle gets dumped by a fellow undergrad who thinks she’s not a suitable marriage prospect. She miraculously gets into Harvard’s law school, pursues this obviously unworthy twit and ends up studying under vicious professor Callahan (Beau Stroupe, far too pleasant a gentleman to play this creep).
The second act collapses almost at once, with a bland musical number lifted from a fitness video. The woman who made it is accused of killing her rich husband; a bevy of lawyers can’t figure out how to save her, until fashion maven Elle unearths the real murderer.
These absurd plot twists and silly coincidences worked better on film, where they weren’t interspersed with a parody of “Riverdance” or a song debating whether effeminacy marks a witness as gay or European.
As the national tour three years ago proved, the show’s weaknesses can be hidden only when the puns, sharp put-downs and double entendres hit us at top speed, and the musical numbers have tremendous drive and utter precision. Once we have time to notice flaws in the writing, “Blonde” loses some of its luster.