Omigod I think Broadway’s Palace Theater totally has a huge hit with the new musical Legally Blonde. Based on the Reese Witherspoon film of the same name, the savvy new show is an effervescent delight, bristling with non stop energy for almost two and a half hours of lively fun. First time Broadway director Jerry Mitchell rarely lets up on the frenzied pace and I doubt the target audience will care one iota. The smart creative team has delivered the message of being true to yourself in a candy coated; pastel colored package that explodes with oomph bombarding the senses like an overdose of adrenalin.
The musical gets off to a rollicking good start with three songs, "Omigod You Guys," "Serious," and "Daughter of Delta Nu," that sets up the background narrative for the unfolding story and thrusts the audience into the show’s furious pace. The numbers are fired out in rapid succession during the first 30 minutes as the story moves rapidly from one location to the next while the animated cast makes numerous quick costume changes.
The giddy book by Heather Hach stays close to the 2001 MGM movie that itself was based on a novel by Amanda Brown. When Delta Nu sorority sister Elle Woods (Laura Bell Bundy) gets dumped by her boyfriend Warner (Richard H. Blake) for someone more serious, just when she thought he was about to propose, she decides to win him back by following him to Harvard Law School and proving him wrong by showing him "how serious" she can be. Along the way she will face stereotypical blonde prejudices, sexual harassment, as well as self-esteem issues in her journey to discovering that true self confidence comes from being yourself. She will also prove herself to be more competent an attorney than her shallow ex and gain a devoted boyfriend in a young teaching assistant, Emmett (Christian Borle).
Jerry Mitchell began his career as a choreographer and while the evening is infused with bouncy dance numbers that bubble with good natured fun the show plays like a long, long, long music video, which may not please all the critics, but will certainly satisfy the target women who were fans of the movie. Unfortunately after a while, the buoyant dance moves seem to blend into one another and little is distinctive. The evening, however, is fun, fun, fun, zipping along with such razor sharp timing that there is hardly a moment to consider the shortcomings.
Since Legally Blonde received outstanding reviews during its tryout this spring in San Francisco much has been written about the Broadway bound new musical. Here in New York Laura Bell Bundy has been criticized for her lack of charisma, often being compared unfavorably to the film’s star Reese Witherspoon. Nothing could be further from the truth as Ms. Bundy turns in a confident Tony nominated sparkling performance that radiates charm. She is simply outstanding, singing and dancing beautifully while playing the ditzy blonde scatterbrain, who discovers her true potential. What she doesn’t get is a quiet moment or a reflective song so we can see the shadings and depth she clearly is capable of delivering.
She is supported by a talented vivacious cast that besides her love interests and two scene stealing canines include Hunter’s new gal, a cool calculating Vivienne (Kate Shindle), a duplicitous law Professor (Michael Rupert), a fitness queen and murder defendant (Nikki Snelson) and a trailer trash hairdresser Paulette (Orfeh in a Tony nominated performance), who befriends Elle. There is even a Greek chorus in Elle’s head in the guise of three sorority sisters (Leslie Kritzer, Annaleigh Ashford and DeQuina Moore), who to step forward to make dazzling humors comments on the action.
The pop music by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin has a "hip" feel that is infused with hip hop as well as soul, but none of the tunes are all that memorable. The cute and clever lyrics feel young and fresh taking their cue from the film, but what is sorely missed is a number for Elle that would put her front and center all alone in the spotlight with her very own song.
Look for ecstatic young girls to be lining up outside the Palace Theater with their mothers, aunts, grandmothers, and even fathers. I believe this show will have a tremendous word of mouth from the target audience that will probably want to see it more than once, so the critics can be damned Legally Blonde is destined to be a long running hit. While we didn’t exactly think the show was, like, you know all that, we could, like, really see where all the money went (we heard, like, 13 million dollars) and we weren’t bored for, like, even a single moment. Well maybe, you know, just once or twice, but we, like, you know, got it.
By Gordin & Christiano
Originally Published on Hamptons.com
Legally Blonde opened April 29, 2007 on Broadway at the Palace Theater, 1564 Broadway at 47th Street. Tickets can be purchased at www.Ticketmaster.com, by phone at 212-307-4100 or in person at the box office.