OK, “Legally Blonde,” I like, totally hate you because I cannot get your opening number out of my head. So, fair warning: “Ohmigod You Guys,” the ultra-high-energy kick-off song for the show now on the Chattanooga Theatre Centre’s Main Stage, may well get stuck in your head, surfacing at inappropriate moments.
If the classic thumbs-up for a Broadway musical is, “I left humming the tunes,” then, like, “Legally Blonde,” you totally nailed it.
Based on the 2001 Reese Witherspoon film of the same name, “Legally Blonde” follows the journey of Malibu Barbie-like Elle Woods (Brittni Rhodes) who, after freaking out when her Harvard Law School-bound boyfriend Warner (Bobby Burkich) breaks up with her because she isn’t “serious” enough, follows him to Harvard to get him back.
The creators of “Legally Blonde’’ obviously realized that the way to make this storyline work as a musical was to make it—a nonstop musical. Which is exactly what they did, and what emerges is soufflé-light, laugh-out-loud summer fun. There is so much singin’, dancin’, costume and set changes and live-dog moments that the audience does not have time to catch its breath between giggles.
The CTC struck gold twice this summer with its musical leads. Like Scott Shaw in the just-closed “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” Brittni Rhodes has to anchor the show. I admired and called out this talented young actress’s work as Penny Pingleton in the CTC’s production of “Hairspray,” and here she demonstrates the versatility and range that will take her far if she chooses to pursue professional theatre. The audience has to like Elle, and root for her, and Rhodes has such a natural likeability that they can’t help it.
Anyone who has ever seen Azusa (She She) Dance onstage will know that she absolutely blasts off with any scene she’s in. As Paulette, the manicurist who befriends Elle, she is a show highlight, especially in her first-act song “Ireland.”
As the two love interests in Elle’s life, both Burkich as the shallow (but eventually repentant) Warner and Jonathan Goff as Emmett, the teaching assistant Elle discovers true love with, are solid and effective. Shanelle Knight is a standout in the Delta Nu/Greek Chorus group.
As for Jeff Hill, playing Elle’s dad, may we just ask: Where did all that twirl skill come from, brother? Flag twirling in dance numbers has never been so precise and enthusiastic.
Actual dogs Dobby Chapman-Newland (as Bruiser the Chihuahua) and particularly Lumpy Wigglesbotham (as Rufus the bulldog) steal every scene they’re in. A special shout-out to the NGGA Humane Society and A Paw And A Prayer Rescue which, according to the show program, saved both these lovable canines and found them “forever homes.”
Lots of bows to choreographer Lindsay Fussell for the major dancing taking place almost all the time. It is not easy to choreograph for dancers with various levels of ability and Fussell does her usual outstanding job here.
It’s worthwhile considering that for all its pink cotton-candy fluff, “Legally Blonde” has a message: There is a lot more to Elle than first meets the eye, but it’s up to her to realize it. Her two “transformation” numbers, which end each act, “So Much Better” and “Find My Way,” are a reinforcement to the young girls who formed much of the Broadway show’s audience that they, too, don’t have to be defined by clothes, hair and traditional roles.
And in the meantime, we’ll keep, like, humming the tunes.
7 p.m. July 25, 8 p.m. July 26, 27, 2:30 p.m. July 28
Chattanooga Theatre Centre, Main Stage, 400 River St.
(423) 267-8534, theatrecentre.com