Don't judge a 'Legally Blonde' book by its cover

A high-octane, energy-sapping, calorie-eating tribute to the glories of girlishness is taking Shanghai by storm.
Ti Gong

Maris McCully, with blond hair and sweet smile, plays the lead role of Elle Woods.

A high-octane, energy-sapping, calorie-eating tribute to the glories of girlishness is taking Shanghai by storm.

The Broadway musical “Legally Blonde,” adapted from the movie of the same name in 2001, follows the transformation of Elle Woods as she tackles stereotypes and scandal in pursuit of her dreams. 

Despite the tacky Barbie-style dresses and decorations, the musical which is on at the SAIC Shanghai Culture Square is an inspirational story for women who are underestimated for being good-looking.

“Never judge a book by its cover, that’s what everybody should learn,” says Jeffrey B. Moss, director of the musical.

And it also seems true for 23-year-old Fanny Jiang, when she was invited by a friend to watch the show.

“I was just about to say no, because I thought it would be a clichéd Mary Sue story, due to the name and the poster,” says Jiang. “But, it’s not. The musical is full of clever mocking, which I adored so much. And there is always something inspiring in the seemingly wild talks, such as being yourself and setting a goal.”

Jiang was also a fan of the beauty salon owner Paulette Bonafonte when she sang about her dreamy “Ireland.”

“Her unique voice with heavy nasal sound knitted perfectly with the bagpipes and hit my heart directly,” says Jiang. “And when she danced like Riverdance with the sexy courier, I could not help laughing and applauding for her dream coming true.”

Like the movie version, the musical is blessed with beautiful songs that tell stories and characters, according to the director.

“The music is so good that some audiences cannot help but get up and dance,” says Mychal Phillips who plays the salon owner.

While keeping most of the original music and lines, some adaptations have been made in the musical version, making it more accessible to today’s audiences.

Big screens are set at the back of the stage and related video clips help set off the atmosphere and tell the story better. Audiences can also find trendy cultural icons like the emoji and PS photos of characters and celebrities in the real world. There are also some really fun catchphrases tickling the audiences without a single miss.

For example, when the innocent murder suspect fires the famous lawyer and chooses Woods to be her defense counsel, people cry out, “It is so Trump!”

Audience member Jack Li, 35, who has seen the movie version of “Legally Blonde,” found leading lady Maris McCully, with blond hair and sweet smile, ideal as Elle Woods. And the carefully designed jokes and details also made the musical even more entertaining, while delivering a feminist message.

“It is really a fresh experience to watch a blonde dressed like bunny today and turn into Alicia in the Good Wife on the next day,” says Li.

Ti Gong

Performance details

Date: Through December 25, 2pm, 7:30pm

Tickets: 80-1,080 yuan

Tel: 6472-6000

Venue: SAIC Shanghai Culture Square

Address: 597 Fuxing Rd M.

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