Review: 'Legally Blonde'

Broadway series continues with movie-to-musical translation

May 7, 2010
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My prior experience with "Legally Blonde: The Musical"—through cast recording and the MTV-televised version of the original Broadway show—made me a with-reservations defender of it.

No masterpiece, sure. The songs were hit and miss, the shrill-potential high, and  there were too many oh-come-on moments sprinkled into the solid-if-silly plot of the movie  (No, I don't buy our consumer oriented Harvard-bound leading lady presenting a live marching band number in lieu of a college application essay).

The front-loading of most of the decent songs into the first act didn't help, either.

But, nonetheless, I enjoyed what I saw and heard, believing that this was clearly a show with legs—not just the dancers' kind, but the kind that gives a show a long life in regional theater productions.

The show I heard on disc and saw on MTV had heart and a clear sense of character. The Broadway lead had a madcap streak that made Elle Woods a worth-watching individual instead of a generic Barbie. And then there was "Ireland," a great number for lovelorn hairdresser Paulette that managed to get laughs a bring a tear at the same time.

Unfortunately, the touring production that visited Clowes Hall this week doesn't make a very good case for "Legally Blonde."

For one—and this may seem trivial—but the lyrics to "Ireland" have changed, for some inexplicable reason. And the big laugh that starts the song ("CELTIC MOODS!") is gone.

But that's unfortunately typical. Much of the show feels second guessed and/or tired, with a sense that no stage manager is minding the store. The worst violations come with members of the supporting cast, who seem to have been granted permission to sever all ties with reality, particularly in the climactic courtroom scene. (Actresses playing the murder victim's daughter, Chutney, and the sassy judge are the prime violators.)

There are exceptions. Michael Rupert, from the original cast, stays anchored and effective as Professor Callahan, the kind of lawyer who gives lawyers a bad name. Jeff McLean and Megan Lewis are in very strong voice as Elle's ex and his new girlfriend. And the sorority that make up the "Greek" chorus keep the energy up.

But their valiant efforts can't make up for a production that seems to be saying "The Elle with it."

Your thoughts?

  • Legally
    The lyrics to "Ireland" were changed/softened for the London production that recently opened out of fear that they were offensive to Irish - who'd be much more likely to see the show in London. My guess is that this change then made its way to the tour, as sometimes happens to changes made during long runs/new productions.

    I saw this touring production about 1 1/2 years ago and found it enjoyable - though not up to par, overall with the strangely enjoyable Bway production. Yes, the tour was downsized, to ensure profitability and moveability on the road, but it was the unexciting performances that didn't quite make it work for me. Lucky that Tony-winner Rupert is now on the road with the show...

  • Sunda Night...
    We had the good fortune to see the show Sunday night with 5 understudies in performance. Elle and her Ireland singing beauty shop bud among them. The energy was up and the cast seemed engaged as happens when so many are on. I understand the tour is closing soon. My wife and I have enjoyed this recording since it was released and had not seen the show. We were excited to finally see it on its feet. I was also saddened by the attendance. Our season tix are for Saturdays and having to switch them due to a scheduling issue I was able to chat with the folks in the BAAI office. That terrible "101 Damnations" sold better and had better "audience feedback"... that made me sad. If we want to continue to have seasons like this one and next year Indy HAS to get out and see these shows. (Not too many please, if a show sells out we can't move down from our nose bleed seats.)

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