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Friday, January 30, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 24.0° F  Partly Cloudy
Arts
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In Overture Hall, Legally Blonde is brightly colored fun
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Elle wheedles her way into Harvard Law School.
Elle wheedles her way into Harvard Law School.

It's a measure of the catchiness of "Omigodyouguys," the signature tune of the 2007 Broadway musical Legally Blonde, that I hummed it not only at intermission (and as I left the touring production in Overture Hall Tuesday night, and as I drove home, and as I brushed my teeth before bed). That song wormed its way into my head so forcefully that when I woke up Wednesday morning, IT WAS STILL THERE, playing endlessly on repeat.

"Omigodyouguys" is an improbably successful show tune -- improbably because you might judge from the title alone that it is real stupid. And I suppose that by the highest Sondheimian standards, it is. But it works. The success of the number, and of the show, owes significantly to the lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin, which have a glib, conversational quality and turn seemingly forgettable expressions into memorable hooks. By the end of the show, "omigod" isn't just a verbal crutch squealed by sorority sisters. It's an affirmation, a valediction, a cry of joy.

Okay, maybe I'm overstating that a bit. But there is no denying the energy of this fun production and its young cast, which includes East High graduate Andy White in the ensemble. Featured is Nikki Bohne as Elle, the role Reese Witherspoon originated in the 2001 film that inspired the show. A Malibu college student, Elle is dumped by her self-absorbed boyfriend (Matthew Ragas), and she wheedles her way into Harvard Law School in order to be near him. In Cambridge she makes new friends and enemies, and while working on a big legal case, she learns What's Really Important.

I'll leave it to smart people to debate whether the college Greek system needs the full-throated defense this show seems to give it. The sisterly loyalty of Elle and her chorus of Delta Nu friends is appealing. Their vapid materialism is not, even in the playfully satirical light this show casts. True, the brightly costumed Delta Nus are an attractive bunch, especially compared to the smug Harvard students, whom Gregg Barnes amusingly clothes in dull sweaters and tweeds.

Bohne is a game, amiable Elle, especially when she is hoofing and singing in big ensemble numbers like the cheerleader-themed "What You Want," which sees her doing a soft shoe in a drum majorette costume. Also engaging is Jillian Wallach as Elle's hairdresser friend Paulette, whose funny, quirky ballad "Ireland" prefigures a large-scale Irish surprise near the end. I'm less enamored by Nic Rouleau as the guy Elle befriends at Harvard. His whiny, timorous vocal style -- all too common for men in pop and show singing these days -- made me long to hear Robert Goulet.

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