Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Oh My God, You Guys! It's a New Musical!!

"Legally Blonde" at the Palace Theatre, April 2, 2007

(photo by Paul Kolnik)

Well, our friends in San Francisco have misled us about another "screen to stage" venture, most recently having sung the praises of "Legally Blonde." It makes sense now why so many shows are running out of town there. They're like Mikey: they'll see anything - and like it!

From the opening number "Oh My God, You Guys!" (yes, that's really the title) to the dubious taste of the 'He's Gay' song during the courtoom scene, this bubble-gum (both in flavor and color) production tosses mixed messages out with such energy and glee that I can't help but wonder just how much Red Bull they force down the cast for each show (Red Bull also gets a heavy product placement). It's hard to tell whether it's misogynistic or just lost in search of a perspective.

There is talent in the cast, but the material is way below par in comparison. Laura Bell Bundy as Elle Woods works hard to fill shoes originated with such a nice flair by Reese Witherspoon in the movie, but even had a problem keeping shoes on in one number. Christian Borle, whose performance in "Spamalot" was a highlight for me, feels miscast as Emmett Forrest. With such a flair for character roles, why would he trap himself with such a bland character whether it's a leading role or not? Richard Blake brings a pretty face to the insipid role of Warner, the object of Elle's affections. Kate Shindle only gets a moment or two to exercise a rather impressive voice, the rest hidden in the role of Vivienne, Warner's new girlfriend. Michael Rupert does what he can to add some dignity to the proceedings, but is let down by the Heather Hach's weak book. The singly-named Orfeh, as Paulette the hairdresser, gets saddled with a rather pointless Irish song and dance number, which for some reason was deemed worthy of a reprise in the second act. Seems to me that if you're gonna poke fun at another show (presumably Pirate Queen) you need to be pretty sure yours is better from the outset.

The score, by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin does little to expand the story or characters. The music is not remarkable, other than the lack of power ballads that have overrun most of the new shows running these days (thank goodness!).

Director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell seems to have had a great time putting all this together, but the result is mostly derivative Paula Abdul dance numbers, only enhanced by a very attractive roster of chorus boys.

David Rockwell has done a nice job with the sets keeping a similar style to his work on "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," (the sorority house looks a lot like Lawrence's Riviera manse) which are complemented well by Ken Posner and Paul Miller's lighting.


Anonymous said...

Actually, you might want to get a few facts straight before you post a blog about it. LESTAT received across the board negative reviews in San Francisco and HIGH FIDELITY played it's out of town tryout in Boston at the Colonel Theatre (not San Francisco) where it also recieved negative reviews.

Mondschein said...

Thanks for your anonymous, kind and thoughtfully worded correction.