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Review: 'Legally Blonde'

Broadway series continues with movie-to-musical translation

May 7, 2010

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?

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