Life seems to be going swimmingly for sorority socialite Elle Woods. Homecoming queen, president of Delta Nu, and girlfriend to Warner Huntington III, Elle has no qualms with the way her life is heading, particularly as she suspects Warner is soon to pop the question. However, things take a turn when Warner dumps her on the night she thought he was going to propose. His reason? "If I'm going to be a politician, I need to marry a Jackie, not a Marilyn."
So Elle is dumped for being "not serious enough." However, she realizes the perfect way to get Warner back — by becoming a serious law student. Elle manages to get into Harvard Law School, but this is only the beginning as she strives to prove her worth to Warner, her professors, her fellow students, and even herself. All the while dressed in pink and with her Chihuahua Bruiser by her side.
The musical takes a different direction from the 2001 movie. The genre disparity between the over-the-top wacky comedy (Elle's two sorority sisters, the "bend and snap" scene) and the more realistic comedy (almost everything else) is gone. "Bend and Snap" as a big dance number fits right in in a musical full of big dance numbers. In fact, the bend-and-snap is made into an actual plot point, replacing the mind-bending "designer shoes" plot point from the film. Minor characters are dropped in exchange for expanding the current cast. The musical version's Emmett has a real give-and-take relationship with Elle, Kate's character is expanded as she helps Elle get into Harvard law, the Delta Nu sorority is more diverse, and Brooke Taylor Wyndham seemed like an actual fitness enthusiast capable of making her empire instead of being just a glamorous Barbie doll. Warner and Elle did their undergrad at UCLA as opposed to the fictional CULA.
The original Broadway musical aired on MTV a month after production and managed to win one and get nominated for several awards. Some viewers consider it an improvement over the film, while most consider it quite good as far as musical adaptations go.
This musical shows examples of:
- Academic Alpha Bitch: Vivienne, at least at first. Lampshaded by Elle, who calls her "an evil preppy" at one point.
- Adorkable: Emmett is well-liked in and out of universe for this reason.
- Adaptational Dumbass: In The Musical, Elle is basically spoonfed what was her big motivational montage in the movie by Emmett, and "Chip On Your Shoulder" frames her success as Emmett's success. She doesn't even give up on Warner until after she gets the internship. Justified, as the change gives more development to both Emmett and Elle's romance with him.
- Adaptation Expansion:
- Elle & Emmett as the groundwork for their relationship is laid over their studying during the fall semester and winter holidays. In addition, Elle has to work harder and sacrifice more in order to get the results she wants, making both the portrayal more believable and her character richer. Emmett also gets this by virtue of spending more time with Elle, helping her study and re-focusing her motivations on herself instead of trying to impress Warner. Extra points awarded as this is done out of true friendship and not in any way to try and pick her up.
- Delta Nu gets this thanks to the sorority sisters, specifically Margo, Serena & Pilar, getting more time to interact with Elle via the Greek Chorus. Kate's character is added to the Broadway version and is seen equal to all the other sisters despite being different from them. Several sisters are also sporty, most notably Brooke Wyndham who is less high glamour and more polished, sporty entrepreneur.
- Ambiguously Gay: There's a whole number dedicated to figuring out whether the trial witness is gay, or just the sort of campy that comes along with being European. Turns out both are true!
- Amoral Attorney: The song Blood in the Water could act as a description of the trope.
- Arc Words: "What about love?" and many variations on it.
- Arson, Murder, and JaywalkingEmmett: Therefore, malum in se is?
Elle: An act that is evil in itself: assault, murder, white shoes after Labor Day.
- Artistic License University Admissions: Elle shows up at the Harvard Law admissions office while they're looking at her application to present a huge dance number and an equally huge guilt trip until they agree to accept her.
- Bait-and-Switch Comment: During "Chip On My Shoulder", there's this exchange:
- Emmett: I predict you will probably pass-
Emmett: In the bottom percent of your class.
- The Beard: Brooke was unknowingly this to her poolboy, who claimed to be her lover to hide the fact that he was gay.
- Better Than Sex:Seeing my name in black and whiteis like making love with you all nightno wait, it's so much better, hello much betterso-oh-oh-OH-OH! Much better
- Berserk Button: Do not insult Gloria Steinem in front of Enid.
- Big-Bad Ensemble: Callahan, who almost ruins Elle's attempt to be an attorney, and Chutney Wyndham, the real culprit behind the Wyndham murder.
- Brainless Beauty: Elle is assumed to be this, but she averts it excellently. Warner leans a little closer to this trope by comparison, but downplayed in his case.
Serena: I don't even think [Warner]'s that hot!Margot: I do!Serena: Well, you're a slut!
- Margot plays this to a T, and it's hilarious.
- Brainy Brunette: Played straight with Vivienne. Elle attempts to invoke this by going to the Hair Affair, only to be talked out of it by Paulette.
- Broken Bird: Paulette.
- Butch Lesbian: Enid is lesbian and most definitely non-girly, with an aggressive demeanor and a fashion sense that Elle describes as "fatigue chic".
- Camp Gay: Carlos, and his boyfriend, Nikos. There's a whole musical number dedicated to it.
- Check, Please!: At the end of "Serious".
- The Cheerleader: Reconstructed. Serena confirms that cheerleaders get guys by exposing themselves, but then shows how it can be a way to female empowerment, and teaches other girls to believe in themselves. Also, she's not the most promiscuous Delta Nu, to the extent she can call Margot a slut with total impunity.
- Composite Character: Vivienne, in that she takes over Professor Stromwell's role in getting Elle back to law school.
- Callahan also takes over for Stromwell, as it's his class that Elle is kicked out of for being unprepared.
- Confusion Fu: Emmet proves that Nikos is gay by asking several questions about him and the case before asking his boyfriend's name, catching him off guard.
- Cool Big Sis: Paulette is this for Elle.
- Deadpan Snarker: Warner, Vivienne, Emmet and Callahan. Paulette occasionally slips into it too.Elle: The Bend and Snap is 99.99% effective on straight men!
Paulette: (with fake enthusiasm) Yeah, and I've got a great track record with those!
- Devil's Advocate: Invoked by Callahan in "There! Right There!" with Vivienne and Enid joining in. Callahan ends up playing both sides of the argument.
- Didn't Think This Through: So, Elle, you've gotten into Harvard Law - except that not only has Warner not taken you back, he's dating someone else. Plus you're seriously behind in reading for your classes. Now what? (Even before this, when Elle ecstatically plans to get into Harvard and immediately skips ahead to planning the wedding, one of her more academic friends pipes up with "Now can we think this through???" and points out everything Elle will need to do to succeed.)
- Disproportionate Retribution: Okay, Chutney, we get how awkward and creepy it must be to have a stepmom young enough to be your sister, but does that really warrant murder!?
- Distracted by the Sexy:
- The whole point of the "bend and snap." Elle and the Greek Chorus are impressed by Paulette's naturally excellent "bend and snap," and teach her how to use it to get Kyle's attention. Elle weaponizes it later, when she realizes the witness might be gay, which would make his story about having an affair with Brooke perjury. First, she tries it on said witness, and he doesn't bat an eyelid. Then, she tries it in the courtroom—and the head of every other guy (and Enid) all whip around to look.
- During "Whipped Into Shape," Enid gets distracted by Brooke's DVD. Understandable, since she's in a sports bra and workout clothes and is doing a vigorous, bouncy dance routine.
- Doting Parent: Both of Elle's. Though they are at first reluctant to pay her way through law school, when they find out how determined she is to get Warner back, they agree. Later, they show up at her trial, beaming with pride.
- Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Minor example, at least in the MTV broadcast; Vivienne slaps Warner during "There! Right There!" when he says his line, "depending on the time of day, the French go either way."
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: Brooke to her clients in "Whipped Into Shape."
- Ear Ache: The witness is dragged by his ear in "There! Right There!"
- Establishing Character Moment:
- Elle gets hers during "Omigod You Guys!", when she sees through a department store saleswoman's attempt to sell her an overpriced, out-of-style dress.Elle: "It may be perfect for a blonde... but I'm not that blonde."
- Emmett being the only person at Harvard to even attempt to be nice to Elle.
- Elle gets hers during "Omigod You Guys!", when she sees through a department store saleswoman's attempt to sell her an overpriced, out-of-style dress.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Callahan, who in his first scene encouraged a student to defend a hypothetical scumbag by putting an elderly woman on the stand and insisting she's senile, and later sexually assaults Elle, has this to say when Elle tells him Nikos must be gay:
- Callahan: "You know if you're wrong, we look desperate and homophobic!"
- Although this could be him worrying about the image/reputation of his law firm.
- The Exit Is That Way: Subversion. She knows she is walking into a closet to make a dramatic costume change.
- False Dichotomy: Callahan assumes that Nikos is either gay or European. He's both.
- Foreshadowing: In his first appearence, Callahan makes a crack about Enid's sexuality, flustering her. While he has a point about not letting your emotions compromise your argument, making such a joke about a student, particularly in front of the whole class is just not okay. So maybe we shouldn't be surprised when he turns out to be a Jerk with a Heart of Jerk. Turns out, he has a habit of overstepping his bounds with students.
- Genki Girl: Elle, her Sorority Sisters and Brooke.
- Greek Chorus: Elle's sorority sisters from UCLA. Made even better because they're a Greek Chorus!
- HA HA HA No: Inverted.Serena: Paulette, do you know why cheerleaders always get the guy and keep the guy?
Paulette: Because you jump around and show your panties?
Serena: HahahahahaHAHAHAHAHAHA—YES! But also because we command and demand attention.
- He Cleans Up Nicely: Elle harnesses this power during "Take It Like a Man" to try to help the handsomely scruffy Emmett impress his boss before the trial. He sees himself in the mirror and promptly shocks himself! Even the still-Alpha Bitch Vivienne has to chalk one up to Elle when she sees him at the court house, and his boss is sufficiently impressed as well.
- He's Got Legs: Kyle. How the UPS allowed him to get away with shorts that short is anyone's guess.
- "I Am Becoming" Song: "So Much Better".
- "I Am" Song: "Chip on my Shoulder" is this for Emmett, at least at the start.
- "I Am Great!" Song: The Harvard Variations, for Aaron in particular.
- Irony: Warner broke up with Elle because he perceives her as a Dumb Blonde and thinks that he needs to date someone smarter and more serious. At the end of the musical, it seems that Elle is actually the smarter of the two, she ends up as a successful lawyer while Warner drops out of law school and starts a career as a model instead.
- It's a Costume Party, I Swear!: As in the movie, Vivian pulls this one on Elle, who arrives at a casual party in a Playboy Bunny costume. When Vivian calls Elle a skank, Elle recovers by taking someone's glasses and insisting she is dressed as an undercover Gloria Steinem and asks Vivian, loudly, if she is calling Gloria Steinem a skank. A horde of feminists descend upon Vivian as Elle exits.
- "I Want" Song: "What You Want," "Serious," "Chip On My Shoulder".
- Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Callahan. He starts off as a cold, condescending, ruthless Amoral Attorney, but when Elle manages to turn the case around, he acts warmly towards her, praising her and defending her from Warner. And then, almost immediately after, he makes a move on Elle, and when she rejects him, he fires her, sending her into a Heroic BSoD.
- Lady Drunk: Elle's mom.
- Let Me Get This Straight...: Emmett is - in succession - confused, astonished and more than a little annoyed that Elle got into Harvard Law simply to try and win back her old boyfriend. Particularly since she isn't taking full advantage of this opportunity that less privileged students would kill for.
- Meaningful Echo: "If there ever was a perfect couple, this one qualifies."
- Meaningful Name: Emmett Forrest, the romantic counterpart of Elle Woods.
- Metaphorgotten: From "Ireland (Reprise)":Paulette: The Irish fear nothing and no one
They keep fightin' 'til everyone's dead
I'm not sure where this metaphor's goin'
I just felt like it had to be said
- Mistaken for Gay: Subverted with Nikos.
- Mr. Fanservice: Kyle. "The new UPS guy is like walking porn!"
- Warner's status as this is lampshaded a few times. In the end, he becomes a model.
- Nikos, Brooke's poolboy. His "uniform" was a red thong and evidently nothing else and Brooke even admits that she liked to check him out while he cleaned the filters. Turns out he's gay.
- Ms. Fanservice: Elle, her sorority sisters and Brooke are the most obvious examples, although the point of the musical is to show that there's more to Elle than her looks. "Bend and Snap" shows that Paulette can be this too.
- Mood Whiplash: "So Much Better" starts off with Elle in the depths of despair, only to have her go to ecstasy in approximately one second.
- Murder by Mistake: The murder victim's daughter and killer confesses that she didn't kill her father on purpose; she wanted to kill Brooke.
- The Musical
- Musicalis InterruptusWarner: That's why I think you and I... should break up!
Elle: Oh baby I'll give you my hand, we—WHAT!?
Emmett: Elle you should know...
- As well as:
Elle: Callahan hit on me.Emmett: ...He what?
Chorus: Oh my god, omigod you g-Serena: (slams door) Guys, she's not here.Chorus: (in unison) WHAT?!
- Mythology Gag: In the film, Harvard is portrayed by UCLA; in the musical, Elle does undergrad at UCLA.
- Never My Fault: Callahan acts as though he did nothing wrong after sexually harassing Elle and fires her in retaliation.
- Nice Guy: Emmet and Paulette.
- No Indoor Voice: Paulette has, or rather doesn't have, this.
- No Name Given: As with the movie, Callahan's first name is never revealed.
- Noodle Incident:Serena: Well, you're a slut.Margot: Look who's talking!Pilar: Three words: Spring break, Cabo!
- Oireland: Where Paulette wants to live someday.
- One True Love: Elle thinks Warner is this. He's not.
- The Perry Mason Method: As in the movie, Elle's cross-examination of Chutney (and her superior knowledge of haircare) leads her to break down and confess.
- Pet the Dog: Warner, as opposed to the movie. At the end of the movie, we learn graduated with no honors, no girlfriend and no job offer, whereas in the musical, he drops out of law school but becomes a successful model.
- Pizza Boy Special Delivery: Immediately after he delivers a package, Paulette describes Kyle as "walking porn". His dialog and delivery sound and look like they came straight out of a porn script.
- Proscenium Reveal: The second act begins with Brooke leading what appears to be an Irrelevant Act Opener, until the action freezes and we see that the number is actually a video that the other characters are watching.
- Race Lift: The witness at the murder trial and his boyfriend. In the film, the witness is Latin and named Enrique Salvatore, while the musical's Nikos Argitakos is ostensibly Greek. Meanwhile, in the film his boyfriend is (the presumably not Latin) Chuck but in the musical it's Carlos.
- The German version has the witness as French and named Nico Chevalier, as the gag here is whether he is gay or French. His boyfriend's name is changed to Carlo as well.
- Reflexive Response: In "There! Right There!"Emmett: So, Mr. Argitakos. This alleged affair with Ms. Wyndham has been going on for...?
Nikos: Two years.
Emmett: And your first name again is...?
Emmett: And your boyfriend's name is...?
Nikos: Carlos. (the courtroom reacts in shock/"I knew it!") Oh--no... no, I misunderstand! I thought you said best friend. Carlos is my best friend.
Carlos: (stands up in the middle of the court) YOU BASTARD!
- Refrain from Assuming: It's actually called "There! Right There!", not "Gay or European?", believe it or not.
- On the Cast Album anyway; the score lists it as "Gay or European?" which makes much more sense.
- Sad Clown: Paulette is something of a comic relief character, but it's clear that a lot of her humor stems from coping with her cripplingly low self-esteem.
- Satellite Love Interest: Warner for Elle, exemplified in Oh My God You Guys when Margot sings, "You're a perfect match because you both have such great taste in clothes!"
- Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Emmett and Elle.
- Screen-to-Stage Adaptation
- "Shaggy Dog" Story: Brooke won't reveal the details of her alibi getting liposuction, the knowledge of which she claims would kill her fitness empire resulting in a long and convoluted trial that nearly resulted in Elle returning home with her spirit crushed, and Brooke herself nearly sentenced to death for murder. At the end, when Elle proves that Chutney killed Brooke's husband, Brooke gets lost in the heat of the moment and ecstatically declares that now "no one will need to know I had lipo on my thighs!" - in front of a crowded room of people (including reporters) thus rendering the whole reason for the trial, and everything Elle did to prove her innocent, rather pointless. The Greek Chorus reassure her that they love her anyway.
- Shout-Out: To The Music Man.Emmett: Class of aught-five, represent!
- Sidekick Song: "Ireland" is one big, bombastic excuse for Orfeh (or whoever's playing Paulette) to get up and show off.
- Slimeball: Callahan, Callahan, CALLAHAN.
- Smug Snake: Callahan; he's convinced that he's the only one who can pull off Brooke's trial and smugly tells her to "enjoy prison" when she fires him. In his Villain Song he talks about all the sleazy, underhanded tactics one can use to let people get away scot-free for horrid crimes.
- Speaks Fluent Animal: One of Elle's sorority sisters can talk to Elle's chihuahua.
- Stealth Pun:
- Stepford Smiler: Elle in the titular number, when she tries to pretend she's okay with returning to California and giving up, living a life of being what people expect her to be.Some girls fight hard, some face the trial, some girls were just meant to smile...
- Straw Feminist: Enid qualifies as one. To clarify, she (albeit jokingly) considers a man who murders a nun and runs over puppies to be a "typical man".
- Third-Act Misunderstanding: Warner sees Callahan petting Elle and assumes Elle slept her way into the internship.
- Title Drop: "I don't want to see Ratty Corduroy or Legally Blonde again today."
- Title: The Adaptation: Legally Blonde: The Musical!
- Token Romance: In the best sense. Elle has kicked ass and proven herself to everyone over the course of the musical. The fact that she meets a great guy who loves her for exactly who she is is just the cherry on top.
- Training from Hell: Brooke's workout regimen, as demonstrated in "Whipped Into Shape."
- Triumphant Reprise: "Legally Blonde: Remix", sung by Vivienne of all people.
- True Companions: Elle and her Sorority Sisters. And later, Elle, Emmet, Warner, Vivienne, Enid and Paulette.
- Unkempt Beauty: Emmett. Paulette qualifies to a lesser degree (she's not so much unkempt as she is lacking in a lot of confidence—hence doesn't pay a lot of attention to her looks).
- Up to Eleven: The... "personal essay" portion of Elle's Harvard application. You thought that tape she used in the movie was ridiculous! Puh-shaw!
- Uptown Girl: Elle is quite rich, knowing several celebrities and her father being able to pay for Harvard out-of-pocket, and she winds up with Emmett, who grew up in a slum and had to work two jobs to put himself through school.
- Villain Song: "Blood in the Water".
- Voice Types: A large part of the vocal spectrum is represented:
- Elle and Brooke - Mezzo-Soprano
- Paulete - Alto
- Vivienne and Enid - Soprano
- Warner - Tenor
- Emmett - Bari-Tenor
- Callahan - Baritone
- Although it is worth noting that all female characters are belters.
- "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Narrated by Paulette; Enid practices family law, Vivian is training for the Peace Corps, Warner quit and became a model, Callahan ran for governor but lost and his wife left him, hiring Emmet to handle their divorce, Paulette married Kyle and had two kids (plus one more on the way) and has a new salon. During this, Elle graduated valedictorian and proposed to Emmet who accepted.
- World of Ham: If every single member of the cast is not playing this to the hilt, that cast is doing it wrong. This then makes "Legally Blonde" all the more heartwrenching, as Emmett and Elle drop all the hamminess.
- You, Get Me Coffee: Callahan does this to Warner.
- You Just Told Me: See Reflexive Response.
- You No Take Candle: Nikos and Carlos, on account of being European. Somewhat justified for Carlos because it's in song and proper English phrasing would break meter.Carlos: This man is gay and European!
And neither is disgrace.
You've got to stop
You're being a completely closet case!