‘Legally Blonde’ plays it perky, safe and sweet
Like, oh-mi-God, isn’t the don’t-judge-a-book-by-its cover theme so been there, done that?
Snap. It’s on.
“Legally Blonde: The Musical” dusts off the old adage, colors it pink and dyes it blonde, to present a full-on confection of glitter, girl-talk and getting ahead.
Having just closed a 17-month Broadway run on Oct. 19, “Legally Blonde” might be a musical for the MTV generation, but it’s certainly sweet and charming enough for others, too.
With a new wrinkle or two, the plot stays pretty true to the movie, starring Reese Witherspoon, on which it’s based.
The adorable Becky Gulsvig is all pep and perk as Elle Woods, a Malibu princess and UCLA sorority girl who can spot a designer imposter from miles away. When she’s dumped by her politically ambitious boyfriend Warner (Jeff McLean) because she’s a “Marilyn” and not a “Jackie,” her life is thrown into turmoil.
But you can’t keep a good blonde down for too long. Elle decides to avenge the breakup by also getting into Harvard Law.
Rather than rely on big dance numbers like “Chicago” or “A Chorus Line,” “Blonde” bubbles over with clever lyrics and toe-tapping melodies.
The husband-and-wife team of Harvard alums Nell Benjamin and Laurence O’Keefe penned the songs and lyrics. Most notable were “Chip on My Shoulder,” in which the sweet Emmett (D.B. Bonds) motivates Elle to finally crack the books.
In “Shark in the Water,” Professor Callahan (Ken Land) lays the groundwork for the serious and cutthroat life at Harvard.
Gulsvig and Natalie Joy Johnson as hairstylist Paulette, “Bend and Snap” their way through a frivolous romp. Channeling Norwell’s Jennifer Coolidge, who was Paulette on the big screen, Johnson is a scene stealer.
A UPS man gimmick where Paulette certainly finds out what brown can do for her; snappy dialogue and memorable one-liners – “That’s a constipated Polo shirt” – save “Legally Blonde” from its own shallowness.
But the show’s roots begin to show in the second act, where it becomes bloated and overwrought. Elle and her team unleash their legal eagling as they try to clear a famous fitness guru of murdering her husband.
Certainly, Elle taking on the Harvard elite and the girls dishing and dancing in the salon are the best “Blonde” offers.
A ridiculous parody of “River Dance,” a dig at Dorchester and a trial scene in the bathroom. That’s where any plausibility went down the toilet.
However, the actress to watch happens to be a brunette, Megan Lewis (Vivienne). Her voice is the most dynamic and wasn’t used enough.
Still, the show works on the strength of Gulsvig’s playful performance as she proves to be one smart “Blonde.”
Reach Dana Barbuto at email@example.com.