How many blondes does it take to excite an audience?
Just one -- if she's surrounded by a cast of 24 talented, energetic actors in the Looking Glass Playhouse's production of "Legally Blonde."
The musical opens with a bang tonight at the Lebanon theater and never lets up.
"It's an amazing piece of logistics," said director Don Urban. "It's almost like a rock opera. The action never stops from the opening number, which takes you from scene to scene to scene ... through four different scenes without stopping. There's so much music and dancing there's no dialogue in the first 25 or so minutes of the show."
You know the story: Pampered and ditsy Delta Nu sorority queen Elle Woods (played by Reese Witherspoon in the 2001 movie) will do almost anything to get her sexy man, Warner Huntington III. She even gets accepted to Harvard Law School in the effort to get her Mrs. degree. But when her boyfriend dumps her for someone "more serious," this blond fashionista gets serious about law. She hits the books, successfully defends a fitness guru in a murder case and proves that being true to yourself never goes out of style.
"The musical's story is right from the movie," Urban said, "and that's a good thing. Eveybody knows the story so there's no teaching involved. We can get right into the action and the music."
The set is a sorority house that converts to Harvard Law School, a classroom and a courtroom. Windows become display windows of a department store.Brooke Schlatweiler, of Belleville, stars as Elle.
"The show has so much energy," said Schlatweiler, 21, who is majoring in music education at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville. "We're having a blast and I think the audience will, too. How could you not have fun with such creative people?"
Elle is all about pink and high heels -- a girly girl. Is that you, Brooke?
"Oh, no," she said. "I'm not a girly girl at all. I wear makeup occasionally, but I don't get my hair and nails done. I'm more T-shirts and shorts. Pink is my favorite color, though."
Elle has a pampered chihuahua.
"I have three dogs -- Gabby, an 8-year-old part chow, part husky -- two puppies and two cats. Sometimes I feel like I live on a farm."
Just like Elle, Schlatweiler is very serious about what she wants to do in life.
"I'm going to be a choir teacher," said the Belleville East graduate.
Brooke's favorite song is "What You Want," which comes when Elle first decides to go to Harvard. Another of her favorites? Getting to work with her mom, Kelly Donohue, who plays her mom in the musical, too.
Those "creative people" Schlatweiler talks about include director Urban, assistant Glenn Netemeyer, choreographer Gigi Dowling Urban and musical director Robbin Netemeyer.
Dowling Urban had to put her cast through workouts of Irish folk dancing, hip-hop and even a percussion number set to jumping rope.
"You get a bunch of people jumping rope for a minute, then having to sing 'Happy Birthday.' It takes breath control," Urban said. "Several healthy young actors found out they couldn't hack it. Now they can. I get out of breath just watching it."
"Whipped Into Shape" has girls in prison stripes, swinging jump ropes.
"It's a charming number, so intense to see all those ropes swinging," Urban said, "Although, I had to be careful not to get beat to death in rehearsals."
Urban was hard-pressed to pick a favorite tune out of the likes of "Omigod You Guys." "Bend and Snap" and "Serious."
"They're all big numbers," he said. "The energy never lets up."
Mike Wells, of Belleville, plays good-looking but pompous Warner.
"He's another very talented actor," Urban said. "He just flew to Detroit to audition for the touring company of 'The Book of Mormon.' He hopes to make it big on stage and I think someday we'll be able to say, 'We knew him when. ...'"
Also in the cast are Jason Koonce, of Dupo, as Emmett, a smart, sensitive law student who takes Elle under his wing; Natalia Fimbres, of Lebanon, as Vivienne, the savvy law student who at first dismisses Elle but grows to be her friend; Mike Russell, of Mascoutah, as manipulative law professor Callahan; Dawn Schmid, of Columbia, as Brooke, the exercise video star accused of killing her husband; and Leigh Reidelberger, of Belleville, as Paulette, a brash and funny hair stylist who longs to find a man for herself.
It wouldn't be "Legally Blonde" without a dog.
"Actually, there are two dogs in the show. Our dog, Barney Dowling Urban, is making his stage debut. His stage name is Rufus. He's an unkempt Scotty, who doesn't know a stranger.
"He's supposed to sit up and beg for food. Some nights he does. Some nights he just sits there and looks at the food."
Then there's Aphrodite Johnson. Jason and Kim Johnson's dog is Elle's pet on the set.
"Ditey is a fairly ill-tempered longhaired chihuahua," Urban said. "She is a stage veteran because she's in our Christmas production of 'A Christmas Carol' every year."
"The audience will love them. And I think they'll love 'Legally Blonde.'"
At a glance
When: 7:30 p.m. today through Saturday and May 16-18; and 2 p.m. Sunday and May 19
Where: Looking Glass Playhouse, 301 W. St. Louis St., Lebanon
Tickets: $10 regular admission; $9 60 or older, students and active-duty military
Reservations: 618-537-4962 or www.lookingglassplayhouse.com