So, I just got back from a weekend in NYC. I saw LoveMusik, 110 in the Shade, and Legally Blonde. Also, because I had some time to kill on Sunday, I sidled over to the TKTS line and picked up a matinée ticket for The Drowsy Chaperone, which included replacement cast members JoAnne Worley, Janine LaManna, and John Glover. Watch for my reviews all this week.
We'll start with Legally Blonde, because it opened Sunday night, and I want to get my blog post out of the way before I start reading the reviews. I was hoping that this show would help fumigate the legendary Palace Theater after the previous tenant, Lestat met with its well-deserved demise.
Not quite. Legally Blonde will likely turn out to be this season's up-beat mediocrity, a la The Wedding Singer. (In fact, it's not even as good as The Wedding Singer.) Overall, I found Legally Blonde to be loud, fast, garish, and shrill. Parts of the show were moderately amusing, but by the middle of the second act, I was ready to have the cast make their summation and let my one-man jury retire for deliberations.
The performances were serviceable, but not outstanding. Laura Bell Bundy is energetic and sweet, but bland as Elle Woods, the Reese Witherspoon role in the movie. She's not quite as grating as some other members of the cast, which I realize is damning with faint praise. The talented Christian Borle imbues the stock good-guy-who-gets-the-girl character of Emmett with a certain "aw shucks" quality, but he's not really given much to work with.
The mononymic Orfeh plays Paulette, an obvious attempt at injecting the show with some sympathetic comic relief, but for me the character and the performance fell significantly short. It was one of those parts that the creators are telling you you should be loving and laughing at, but I just wasn't buying it.
The show's book is by screenwriter and journalist, Heather Hach, which is a rather unfortunate name for a librettist. The humor is obvious and forced, and the characters are one-dimensional, turning from good to bad (Michael Rupert's Professor Callahan), or bad to good (Elle's romantic rival, Vivienne), with no apparent motivation.
One minor bright light in the show is the score by husband and wife team Lawrence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin. I've long been an admirer of O'Keefe's work, especially Bat Boy and 3hree. The pair's Legally Blonde score is clever at times, often fun, but seldom memorable. One major exception was the infectious opening number, "Omigod You Guys," but the rest of the score fails to live up to the promise of that number.
The production is manned by veteran choreographer, but first-time Broadway director, Jerry Mitchell, and the show's shortcomings to a great extent fall at his inexperienced feet. Mitchell's directorial hand is unsure, and many of the show's comedic moments don't quite come off. It makes me wonder what Mitchell's mentor, Jack O'Brien, could have done with this show. The show obviously wanted to be Hairspray, or at least Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and had O'Brien, the director of those two shows, been on board for this one, we might have seen a far more effective and satisfying piece show up at the Palace.