Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Legally Blonde (The SOB Review)

Legally Blonde (The SOB Review) - Palace Theatre, New York, NY

** (out of ****)

Oh my…God help us.

I realize that Legally Blonde has, like, totally captured the hearts of many an audience member (especially the tween-to-teen set), but the allure of this latest film-to-fluff fare for the stage escapes me. You know a show is in trouble when the most appreciative audience response is reserved for the dogs.

About halfway through the first act of Legally Blonde, the talented but misused Orfeh sings the incongruous tune “Ireland” that includes the prescient line, “I don’t know where this metaphor is going.” That line neatly captured my frustration with this over-the-top ode to girlie girldom power that chose several bizarre tangents to veer off toward.

For every genuinely clever line in the book by Heather Hach -- and there were several like the one where Harvard admissions discussed reasons for letting this blonde bombshell into school: "diversity" -- there was a groan-worthy tune from Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin (like "Serious" that sounds more like a retread from Saturday Night Fever or "There! Right There!" that I'll get back to in a moment) or serious misstep.

Including in the choreography by Jerry Mitchell, who’s usually, like, you know, really superb at this sort of thing. I'm a huge fan of his previous efforts, but the moves here work more like a hybrid of “Bring It On" and Riverdance. Perhaps he was just a bit too busy adjusting to his additional role -- his first time as a director.

Of all people, Mitchell should know better than to exacerbate gay stereotypes. Whether providing the dykiest of lesbians or the nelliest of hairdressers or the complicit conspirators in the tedious “There! Right There!" number that tries to discover whether a potential perjurer is gay or European, it’s a surprise that GLAAD hasn’t been knocking the show. It was appalling.

As for Hach's book, there was little other than the memory of Reese Witherspoon in the movie to help the audience understand why everyone in the show -- including the aforementioned Harvard admissions team -- was so readily capable of making the huge leap toward loving the lead character of Elle Woods.

Don't get me wrong, the lovely Laura Bell Bundy does what she can with the part, and she's a terrific singer and dancer, but the book does her quite a disservice. For example, we're to believe that this perfectly dressed, well-coiffed Elle will take the advice of the poorly-dressed, wrong-side of the tracks hairdresser Paulette (Orfeh) whom she just met?

Of course, there's so much energy and exuberance that you can't blame the audience for getting whipped into a frenzy, including on numbers like "Whipped Into Shape" -- another tangential number that only marginally moves the story along. The use of the Delta Nu Greek chorus throughout the show is inspired. And I confess that I'm simply unable to get the tune "Omigod You Guys" out of my mind (please! Make it stop!!).

But I much prefer Legally Blonde - The Film.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:
Did Critics You Know Like Totally Blonde? (April 30, 2007)
Legally Blonde Comes Of Age Tonight (April 29, 2007)
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 08 May, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, Steve, I think you actually liked it less than I did. I guess neither of us is in danger of being considered a mindless cheerleader for the Broadway musical form. --cc

At 08 May, 2007, Blogger Sarah B. Roberts said...

Oh my god, you guys! I'll go if it's for, like, free!

At 09 May, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Well, I do go to shows in hopes that I'll like them, but if I don't enjoy them, I'll tell it like I see it. And Sarah, my friend got a ticket for $25 (unlike me who paid full price) and still didn't get $25 worth.

At 11 May, 2007, Blogger Erica said...

There's the whole trend of Movies to musicals going on lately: Wedding Singer, Legally Blond, and talks about Shrek the musical, 9 to 5 (for those of us that remember the movie) and Spider Man. I'm not sure if we should be scared of these or not!

At 14 May, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Erica, Personally, I have nothing against the idea of adapting a story from film to a stage musical as long as it's done right and is relatively true to the story.

For example, The Producers was, in my opinion, far superior to the original Mel Brooks film from the sixties. Hairspray provided a wonderful take on its movie progenitor.

I have even loved the stage versions of silver screen favorites that critics were mixed on: Sweet Smell Of Success and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, both of which starred John Lithgow.

But just because a plot worked on screen doesn't automatically mean it'll pan out on the stage as all too many examples have borne out.

In addition to each new one you've mentioned, there's probably a dozen others currently floating in the abyss. And it will be very telling what happens to the colossal Lord Of The Rings that's about to open in London.

As for Spiderman, I take hope from the creative minds behind that one, not the least of whom is Bono from U2. And the musical I'm most eagerly anticipating for the new 2007-08 Theatrical Season is none other than Young Frankenstein. So I haven't completely given up on the film to stage musical process just yet.

Thanks as always for your comments, Erica!


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