Friday, May 04, 2007

Blonde ambition

So, Legally Blonde

First of all, it plays at the Palace, where I saw Liza Minnelli do her creepy but enthralling tribute to her father, Minnelli on Minnelli, in 1999. My pal Moe had gotten us balcony seats but we were able to sneak down to a better section as the show was pathetically undersold. This was in the pre–David Gest days, when Liza was physically and psychologically struggling, and she even did a number in a wheelchair—as a bit of a lark, but not really.

For my return to the Palace, girls (and their moms) had replaced middle-aged men (and their moms) in the audience. And many of them had or were about to raid the merch tables: stuffed dogs (there’s two live ones in the show), pink T-shirts, sweat pants (sorry, yoga pants) with OMIGOD printed on the butt, hoodies, etc. Drinks and snacks were also allowed at the seats, so quite a bit munching was going on inside, albeit not close enough to where I was to really bug me (I turn into a complete fascist when it comes to eating at the theater and even movies). In other words: It was the Broadway equivalent to a trip to the multiplex—at ten times the price, of course.

Overall, the show achieves exactly what it aims for, and a little more. There's quite a few positive elements in it: lots of fun, energetic dance scenes courtesy of choreographer/director Jerry Mitchell; a good cast (with Dilettante fave Leslie Kritzer predictably strong as sorority girl Serena), a strong second act (a rarity in musicals, as we know) and a score that’s not great but definitely above average (it's way better than Wicked, and opening number “Omigod You Guys” is lodged in my head). Laura Bell Bundy delivers as Elle Woods, though I will for once agree with Ben Brantley in that she lacks that elusive spark that makes a musical-theater star. In other words, she's no Kristin Chenoweth or even Sutton Foster.

I've seen and heard comments about the overwhelmingly female appeal of the show. And why not? Most pro sports have an overwhelmingly male appeal but that doesn't seem to be a problem to anybody. Why is a woman in a Legally Blonde hoodie cast as a victim of merchandizing run amok but a guy in a Red Sox one isn't? All I can say is, I hope The Tristan Project has decent merch. Like maybe an Isolde baby T, or branded power drinks.

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