Thursday, May 24, 2007
Legally Blonde on Broadway: Expecting To Be Entertained Tonight
I decided that I would only see Legally Blonde if I could go for free. Well, I've backed off on the free bit. Still, it's only $26.50 because not only did a student hook me up with his I.D. but he stood in line for the rush too. How can I turn that down? But I still expect to be entertained.
My journey to the Palace Theatre could only enhance experience. I left my office at 7:45 through the backdoor, walked down 47th Street, turned the corner on 7th Avenue and walked right in the doors and down the center aisle to the front row seat (remember, only $26.50). Demographically speaking, the theatre was full of young women - not the tweens you see at that other musical about a blonde and her brunette friend. This was obviously a fan base who had already seen the show many times, as evidenced by the plethora of t-shirts emblazoned with the show's logo as well as a number of pink dresses. I wondered if I would fit in. I never heard the word "like" used so much in such a short time. There were some older couples, a few straggling little girls with their mothers and then in walked Sarah Jessica Parker (looking unusually grungy with long, stringy hair, but nevertheless glamorous) - I thought to myself well, finally, somebody in my demographic (Your demogaphic? Are you sure about that? Well, sort of, she is older than me but not that much). Kate Burton was there too and came down to talk to the conductor. So, the pre-overture atmosphere was charged. The girls had their cameras out and were snapping, with flash, pictures of the curtain which was pink, of course, and just had a picture of silver necklace on it. Hmmmm, the ushers seemed tolerant. Then it started. Some of the peppiest, poppiest music I've heard on Broadway. It moved, moved, moved at a non-stop pace with catchy, yet forgettable tunes. It was so quick that I had no time to absorb the music. Yet, if you've seen the movie, and I confess, I have many times, you know the story. The book of this musical is changed just a tad. Yet, I was not really intrigued until a few bars before intermission curtain when "Elle", played by the darling Laura Bell Bundy, discovers that she wants to do something for herself rather than just her boyfriend. Who can resist that anyway? It's girl power, all the way. The second act was interesting, to say the least. Remember that scene in the movie about the "bend and snap"? During the "bend and snap" number, Laura Bell's wig came off. She picked it up and held it in her hands for a moment before putting it back on. She broke the fourth wall when she turned to the audience and said, "So much for legally blonde." The audience went wild by jumping to their feets and screaming. The music continued, but the cast lost it for at least five minutes. It was my first time to see this on Broadway. Sure, accidents happen but it's up to the cast to continue on. They almost couldn't. The audience ate it up because of course, it makes them even more connected with what's happening on stage - a once in a life time that can never be repeated. Finally they recovered, the number evolved into a huge dance piece that only Jerry Mitchell could have choreographed - hip hop combined with classic moves - this number even included Irish-like step dancing. The stage was higher than I had ever seen in a Broadway house. It was an odd feeling as I could never see anybody's feet or even the dogs when they crossed the stage. So, there are Tony nominations all around for this work: Best Actress in a Musical for Laura Bell Bundy, Best Featured Actor in a Musical for Christian Borle who plays "Emmet", Best Featured Actress in a Musical for Orfeh who plays "Paulette", Best Choreography for Jerry Mitchell, Best Costume Design of a Musical for Gregg Barnes (a well deserved nod - not since Mame has a lead actress had so many costume changes), Best Book of a Musical Book - Heather Hach (huh?),
Best Original Score - Laurence O’Keefe; music by Nell Benjamin; lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin (okay, well, it's cute). Christian Borle is cute in a nerdy way and has a nice voice - he's not a dreamy leading man, but he's got that nice guy presence. Orfeh has a big mezzo voice with a belt that won't stop - she can do anything. Did Laura Bell deserve a nomination over Ashley Brown in Mary Poppins? I think it's deserved. Ashley is a solid performer but she doesn't quite sparkle like Laura Bell does. Of course, it's a completely different role - the bubble gum cheer leader sorority girl exhuberance of "Elle" versus the practically perfect stuck up British reserve of "Mary". Well, it had to be one of them and perhaps the nominators simply tossed a coin. Overall, Legally Blonde is fast-paced, catchy, feel-good and definitely entertaining. It wasn't written as art but as entertainment meant to be a money maker and there is no doubt that's what it will do. Would I see it again? You bet - but I wouldn't pay more than $26.50.
at 5:01 PM