In the flash of neon pink that is Legally Blonde: The Musical's opener "Omigod You Guys," the tone of this musical is quickly apparent. The shrieking excitement of the girls of Delta Nu for Elle Woods' (Hannah Rachal) upcoming (or, so they think) engagement might scare those unfamiliar with the strange world of Greek life.
Although sugary, the show is self-aware, and a sense of humor and a game cast — which includes two dogs — propel Theatre 13's production.
The word "subtle" doesn't come to mind in describing the 2001 Reese Witherspoon comedy that inspired the musical, but the stage iteration makes the film seem relatively quiet. The video essay Elle submits with her Harvard Law School application in the film is translated onstage as a splashy showstopper with a marching band and a hip-hop — as interpreted by Malibu sorority girls — dance breakdown.
Theatre 13's take on that number is slightly scaled down from the Broadway version, but there's still gymnastics, a cheerleader stunt and Kelly Fouchi and Heidi Malnar's fresh, energetic choreography. That cast members weren't gasping for breath by that scene, which follows a well-paced block of songs, shows their stamina.
Physically, Rachal is perfectly suited for Elle, and she's good at snapping from sorority girl to whip-smart student. She also handled Elle's difficult vocal parts, which culminate in a long-sustained note in Act 1 closer "So Much Better." She could have pushed further as an actor, though. Her trio of sorority friends who morph into the Greek chorus later in the show (Kayla Herrington, Katie Lynn Cotaya and Anna Toujas Rosenberg) are capable singers and deft comedians. Local personal injury attorney — and frequent stage actor — Greg DiLeo plays the smarmy Professor Callahan. Tammy Mansfield was funny and likeable as Paulette, the wise beautician Elle befriends.
A post-sugar-rush crash sets in during Act 2, which features the cast singing while jump-roping (again, the stamina), an Irish dance number and the film's "bend and snap" scene blown up into a pop number. Janie Heck, playing the icy Vivienne Kensington, reveals a fine singing voice at the end.
Despite a few lines of sexual innuendo, this show is best-suited for teens attuned to "omigod" youth culture. But everyone can appreciate that like Elle herself, the show is smarter than it seems. — Lauren LaBorde
Thru Sept 30
Legally Blonde: The Musical
8 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 2 p.m. Sun.
Rivertown Theaters for the Performing Arts
325 Minor St., Kenner