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.
Rachal, physically, 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
Legally Blonde: The Musical
8 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 2 p.m. Sun., through Sept. 30. Rivertown Theaters for the Performing Arts, 325 Minor St., Kenner; (504) 461-9475; www.theatre-13.com