On the heels of earning 10 Equity Jeff Award nominations for outstanding performance, direction and design in Chicago theater last season, the Paramount Theatre in Aurora just debuted a bright and brash production of “Legally Blonde” to launch its latest Broadway Series.
Under the artistic direction of Jim Corti, the Paramount has become the second largest subscription house in the nation, supported on twin pillars of artistic excellence and affordability.
The current musical is based on the book and 2001 movie, whose heroine has been deftly updated to reflect the Me Too movement in tandem with other topical material that lends heft to the fairy tale of a looks-obsessed Malibu sorority sister who rashly follows her ex-boyfriend to Harvard law school in hopes of beguiling him back into her life.
“Legally Blonde” marks the Aurora directorial debut of Trent Stork, the Paramount’s longtime casting director. He again assembles a powerhouse lineup of vocalists and dancers, accompanied by 13 musicians in the orchestra pit of the restored Art Deco theater.
Casey Shuler as Elle Woods shows good development of her character as she grows into a champion for herself and her friends. The cast is full of standouts, including the comically strong Sophie Grimm as hair stylist Paulette and Gerald Caesar as Emmett Forrest, in a finely wrought performance. Stork uses his casting choices to elevate the power of the story as re-envisioned for the Paramount.
Kudos go to the choreography team of Stork and Megan Farley and their gifted dancers, and to two scene-stealing canines, including Elle’s chihuahua, Bruiser, played by Frankie, a rescue dog who doesn’t miss a cue.
The show pops visually, with the inspired use of a giant, suspended cellphone that periodically brings its multimedia burst of images, video and text messages, all dialing in lots of laughter.
This season, theater fans also can look forward to “The Wizard of Oz,” playing Nov. 14 to Jan. 6; “The Producers,” Feb. 6 to March 17; and “August Rush,” the Paramount’s first world premiere musical, April 24 to June 2.
If you go
WHAT: “Legally Blonde” musical
WHERE: Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora
WHEN: Wednesday through Sunday until Oct. 21
COST: Four-show packages start at $72; single tickets cost $36 to $69
INFO: Rated PG-13; 630-896-6666, Paramount Aurora.com