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Gemini Vegetarians Rule in ACE’s Legally Blonde

Megan Simón as Elle Woods
Megan Simón as Elle Woods

I don’t know exactly how many blondes it takes to screw in a light bulb, but I suspect the number is more than one and something less than 163. Honestly, the questions isn’t all that interesting, the punch line probably less so, but since we’re on the subject, let’s dispense with any misogynistic concerns and acknowledge that Legally Blonde: The Musical, like the movie upon which it’s (egad) based, has pro-feminist pretensions, if only of the lipstick variety. So please, let’s not go getting our panties in a bunch; the whole thing is pretty harmless. After all, Actors Cabaret — where the show runs through June 2 — is all about fun, atmosphere and community.

Measured by any standard, then, Legally Blonde indubitably qualifies as an unrepentant piece of theatrical fluff, and as such, its success should depend entirely on the answer to this single inquiry: Is ACE’s production fluffy enough? To which I say: yes and no. Staged under the zippy direction of the talented Joe Zingo, Legally Blonde offers up just enough percolating burble and referential nostalgia to satisfy fans of the silver-screen original, and just enough independence and individuality to justify its existence.

Heather Hach’s book is a hash, and best viewed as a mere perforation of the movie — a sort of greatest hits about a seemingly ditzy but actually quite shrewd valley girl who, with pluck and perk, pursues her Harvard-bound sweetheart by getting into the law school. Where, of course, OMG LOL, by just being BFFs with her own quirky self, she wins the day.

As everyone’s fave femi-floozy Elle Woods, Megan Simón brings a courageous slant to a role popularly owned — lock, stock and apparel — by Hollywood ass-kicker Reese Witherspoon. Simón, who is lanky and athletic-looking, not only gives us a different take on Elle, but she dispenses wholesale with what Reese wrought. She possesses the title role, so much so that it isn’t until the second act that you come to appreciate the subtlety of her performance — a combination of bemused half-innocence and uptalky charm that channels the resilient comic goof of Lucille Ball by way of Kristen Wiig.

The production is a bit uneven, yet buoyant and funny enough to be worthwhile. Many of the problems reside in the musical itself, a hybridized, sloppy-seconds crowd-pleaser with only moderately successful music and lyrics. Hand it to Zingo and his cast, who more often than not locate the necessary effervescence to make Legally Blonde percolate.

A number of strong performances further hoist the fun factor: As the proudly part-Irish hairdresser Paulette, Michelle Sellers brings down the house; Megan Robertson is spot-on as the aerobicizing accused murderer Brooke Wyndam; and Mark VanBeever, in the dual roles of Grand Master Chad/Carlos, again proves his strong comic chops, and serves as the production’s choreographer.

Legally Blonde: The Musical plays through June 2 at Actors Cabaret of Eugene; info & tickets at ActorsCabaret.org or 683-4368.