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Legally Blonde is synthetic as hell and relentlessly upbeat. It is also the most enjoyable new show on Broadway. Like Wicked and Hairspray, Blonde encourages girls to think that, in the real world, a woman’s intelligence and pluck will attract more attention than her physical attributes. This is what we call fiction. But I’m willing to wager that the 12-year-olds now pestering their parents for tickets are savvy enough to know that here they are being spoon-fed fantasy.
That fantasy is based on the 2001 Reese Witherspoon movie of the same name. The Malibu co-ed Elle Woods enrols at Harvard Law School to reclaim her ex-boyfriend. Tutored by the working-class attorney Emmett Forest, Elle acquires courtroom skills which she uses to defend Brooke Wyndham, an aerobics queen wrongly accused of murder.
Not only aerobics but also cheerleading informs the high-octane staging of Jerry Mitchell, who is known as a choreographer and this time makes his Broadway directing debut. Laura Bell Bundy, as the perky Elle, and Orfeh, as her beauty-shoppe pal Paulette, and a Greek chorus of chorines enact Mitchell’s staging with unflagging heart.
My only serious complaint about Legally Blonde is that Elle’s chihuahua and Paulette’s bulldog don’t have their own romantic subplot. (If you want to know why, rent the movie sequel, Legally Blonde 2. On second thoughts, don’t.)
Working with the cheerful, hard-beat music and lyrics of Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin, Mitchell keeps everything zooming along. One day this director will have a Broadway showcase for his genius at staging adult burlesque. Given the way the world is moving, 12-year-old girls will probably insist on seeing that musical, too.
What’s my proof? Because at the Legally Blonde performance I attended, when a showstopping number highlighted the similarities between the grooming habits of gay men and those of suave straight Europeans, the six-to-10-year-old cohort across from me were laughing just as knowingly as their parents.
Translation: sophisticates of all ages are welcome here.
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