Monday, April 30, 2007

Did Critics You Know Like Totally Blonde?

Did Critics You Know Like Totally Blonde?

The curtain had not even fallen on last evening's Broadway opening night for Legally Blonde when the early reviews began posting. The musical is based on the 2001 film of the same name. Laura Bell Bundy assumes the Elle Woods role. The critics largely provide mixed assessments.

Saying the show "trades up on the original model in both character development and infectious comedy," Variety's David Rooney is perhaps the most generous: "Working from Amanda Brown's novel and Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith's screenplay, book writer Heather Hach has added definition to the story's generic message about being true to yourself and not judging people by their packaging....Choreographer-turned-director Jerry Mitchell has done a creditable job of driving this well-oiled machine. Its zippiness in the opening stretch, in particular, is almost dizzying."

Bell Bundy and the show are both "peppy and bright,"according to Linda Winer of Newsday, but her review is mixed: "[T]he show, directed with cheerfully breathless momentum by Jerry Mitchell, clearly has a healthier 'sell-by' date than the ones marked on the piles of discarded crates that brought Footloose, The Wedding Singer, Saturday Night Fever and (add your own) short-lived movie adaptations. After all, Mitchell choreographed such long-running, crowd-pleasing adaptations as Hairspray and The Full Monty. With Legally Blonde, his directing debut, he takes the logical well-worn step from moving bodies to energizing the total vision. Everything gets moved -- except, you know, your heart."

Labeling the tuner as "tuneless," Michael Kuchwara of the Associated Press seems to enjoy save for the music: "It really moves....So why, despite the expensive glitz and an aggressive, go-go attitude, does Legally Blonde only fitfully entertain? Most prominently because of a disappointing score....What slows down the production are some of the songs by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin. Most of them are vaguely pop, tunes with little discernible theatricality. The melodies evaporate quickly..."

Agreeing on the musical score, New York Post's Clive Barnes says it's a "pleasant if noisy night out" in his two-and-a-half star review: "When was it that so many Broadway musicals took "Looney" to their hearts but managed to leave out the 'Tunes'? Heather Hach's book, based on the screenplay and the original novel (who knew?) by Amanda Brown, makes all the right moves and has a good feel for both fun and wit, even though theater necessarily lacks the open-ended possibilities of a movie. And unfortunately, the score never picks up the slack, although the lyrics by the husband and wife team of Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin are markedly sharper than their usual."

Calling Blonde "high-energy, empty-calories and expensive-looking hymn to the glories of girlishness," The New York Times' Ben Brantley is largely dismissive with a sugar twist: "Legally Blonde...has Laura Bell Bundy, the kind of young woman who summons instant parental pride in the middle-aged. In addition to her prom-queen prettiness, she sings and dances flawlessly, and she delivers silly lines as if she meant them. But she lacks the quirkiness and irresistible watch-me egotism that a big, heroine-worshiping musical needs at its center....This means that the weight of the show, directed with hyperkinetic effusiveness by Jerry Mitchell, shifts to its feel-good formula."

"It's only sorta fun," laments Joe Dziemianowicz of New York's Daily News : "Hach cleverly uses Elle's sorority sisters as a Greek chorus to pump up the show's girl-power vibe. The dark-haired Leslie Kritzer, as Serena, is a sassy standout, and suggests that if brunettes don't have more fun, they have the funniest lines -- and know how to work them. Blonde's shortfalls are rooted in the score."

During the upcoming week, I'll be taking in this show, so stay tuned for my SOB Review shortly thereafter.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:
Dye Is Cast For Legally Blonde Reviews (February 8, 2007)
Coming Of Age: Legally Blonde Opens In San Francisco (February 6, 2007)
M-G-M: Movies-Going-Musical (January 3, 2007)
Which New Broadway Musical Are You Most Enthusiastic About Seeing? (October 16, 2006)
A Place Where Nobody Dared To Go...Until Now: They Call It Xanadu (July 18, 2006)
Broadway Bound to Get Nuttier with More Movie Adaptations Turned Musicals (June 7, 2006)

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At 30 April, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

At 30 April, 2007, Interval Drinks said...
My flatmate just came back from a trip to New York where she caught this in previews. Her verdict: not nearly as bad as it could have been. Good, frothy fun in fact and one of the things she enjoyed most about her trip.

At 30 April, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Thanks for the heads-up. It's not as if critics completely panned the work. On the contrary, they actually said some nice things about it, even if it was the score that they criticized the most.

As noted previously, I will be in the audience over the upcoming week and will let you know what I think.


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