« Ireland Announces Election in Light of Political Questioning | Main | Mike Hatch Resigns »

"Legally Blonde" Film Gets Transferred to Theatre

A Broadway version of the popular 2001 film "Legally Blonde" starring Reese Witherspoon opened recently in New York. In this review of the show, New York Times writer Ben Brantley raves about the dancing, sets, costumes, and athleticism of the cast, but subtly says that its not as good as the film version, that the main character lacks oomph, and that the message may be wrongly received.

Excerpts from Brantley's article: "This high-energy, empty-calories and expensive-looking hymn to the glories of girlishness, based on the 2001 film of the same title, approximates the experience of eating a jumbo box of Gummi Bears in one sitting. This may be common fare for the show’s apparent target audience — female ’tweens and teenagers who still believe in Barbie. But unless you’re used to such a diet, you wind up feeling jittery, glazed and determined to swear off sweets for at least a month.

“Legally Blonde,? the musical, 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. Imagine “Hello, Dolly!? with Shirley Jones instead of Carol Channing, and you’ll get the idea.

But Mr. Mitchell is also a passionate fan of vintage Broadway musicals. So every so often “Legally Blonde? rolls out another big number that pays tribute to its female star, à la “Hello, Dolly!? and “Mame.? Elle is allowed to be the center of not one, but two high-stepping parade numbers. Ms. Bundy responds to all this attention with a glossy graciousness, though what you’re hungering for is baby-diva fireworks.

You see, “Legally Blonde? lets a gal have it all. She can play the bimbo while admiring bimbos of the opposite sex. She can wear pink as if it were navy blue. And while she knows that appearance isn’t everything, she also knows that it counts for an awful lot. Hence a makeover sequence in which Mr. Borle is transformed from academic geek to corporate Greek god.

But what about those who don’t appreciate the value of a manicure or a leg wax? Among Elle’s Harvard classmates is a dowdy lesbian (played by Natalie Joy Johnson), who is routinely the object of the show’s most unsavory jokes. Which makes you wonder uneasily if the message of “Legally Blonde? isn’t just that it’s O.K. to be pretty, but that it’s not O.K. not to be."

Link to the full article