Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp Review
By Elyse Sommer
So, Omigod, my fellow critics, carp all you want. Legally Blonde's feel good theme and cotton candy colored show biz gliz is not geared to us but to these girls. They're the ones most likely to make it part of the current big teen-appeal musicals, Hairspray and Wicked, making it likely that this duo of long-running hits will now be a triumvirate. Not to be discounted as enthusiasts are the moms (and grandmas) who raised this core audience to believe that, glass ceiling or not, having it all is a valid ambition, that a girl can be a powerhouse lawyer and also marry one— and if she happens to look great and likes fashionable, sexy clothes, she doesn't have to camouflage those assets in attention-hiding clothes. And while this won't be a first choice show for men, those who enjoy watching pretty girls and lots of dancing are likely to comprise a sizeable tag-along audience.
Falling as I do into the tertiary part of the above core audience, I exited the Palace quietly, unlike those who gave shout-outs of "amazing" and "awesome" —but neither was I bored or turned off. This latest movie-into-stage musical is what it is.
The tons of money ($13 Million) thrown at the show translate into a seemingly ever-changing set (courtesy of David Rockwell), plenty of character matching costumes (Greg Barnes) and a big, energetic cast that includes two adorable pooches — Elle's petite Bruiser (Chico) and beautician Paulette's (Orfeh) more robust Rufus (Chloe). As one might expect from a show marking choreographer Jerry Mitchell's directing debut, there's also lots and lots of hyper-kinetic dancing that includes an athletic jump rope number in a prison.
Unlike some of the screen to stage musicals that went to an early grave, Legally Blonde has a book that, despite credibility stretches, works. Just in case you don't know the plot via the movie: Elle is a California co-ed whose boyfriend ditches her for someone more suited to his senatorial ambitions. She follows him to Harvard, intent on winning him back, only to discover the pleasures of using her brain but without giving up the advantages of being blonde and beautiful. Book writer Heather Hach has not only preserved the plot that won fans for the movie but strengthened it by building the nerdy Emmett's (Christian Borle) character so that he's now an attractive romantic alternative to fickle Warner (Richard H. Blake). With Borle (most recently a riot in Spamalot) cast as Emmet the expansion of this character is a definite plus.
Other casting pluses include Michael Rupert as a legal eagle law professor who seems to see nothing illegal in making a move on a pretty student and Orfeh as Paulette the beautician who become's Elle friend when she gets to Harvard. Unlike many of the others on stage, Orfeh has the singing chops to enable you to hear the lyrics of Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin's songs. Like Emmett and Vivienne (Kate Shindel), another law student and Warner's snooty society girl friend, is changed by Elle's brand of pink and pretty doesn't preclude smart feminism. For Paulette that means getting back her dog from her nasty ex-boy friend and being open to a new love, a UPS man named Kyle (drolly portrayed by Andy Karl).
The Paulette/Kyle romance paves the way for a hilarious Irish Step Dancing sequence. But the sharpest musical sequences come when the pink decor is transformed into a wood paneled courtroom and a gay man is amusingly rather than offensively outed with the very snappy "Bend and Snap" and a comic refrain that asks "Gay or European?"
Not to be overlooked for the plus side of the ledger are the sorrority sisters who turn up as a Greek chorus commenting on what's going on in Elle's head as often as pop-up ads on your computer screen, but much more welcome. And in case you're wondering if some of the favorite lines from the movie have made the cut to the musical, indeed they have. You'll hear Elle's dad (Kevin Pariseau) get out of his nifty golf cart to try to dissuade Elle from her plan to go to Harvard with "Law school is for people who are boring and ugly and serious. And you, button, are none of those things. " You'll also hear Warner dump Elle by telling her " If I want to be a Senator, I need to marry a Jackie, not a Marilyn."
Some of the details in Legally Blonde may not stand up with a judge who's a stickler for total accuracy, but this is a fairy tale that rounds out the self-image boosting messages of its sister musicals. Just as Tracy Turnblad made it okay to be fat, and Elphaba allowed green (code word for ugly) to triumph over adorably blonde, so Elle Woods takes up the cause of the supposedly dumb blonde. It's not My Fair Lady but this little lady has a fair chance of filling the Palace Theater for a a better than fair run.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide