Sunday, March 30, 2008

OMG – It’s Legally Blonde: The Musical!

I will be the first to admit that I am a theatre geek. My parents instilled in me an almost embarrassing love of musicals which continues to this day. I used to listen to knock-off recordings of Oklahoma! and Phantom of the Opera. Thankfully, as I grew older, my tastes became a little more discerning.

This leads me to my first rant on musical theatre for this blog. To be completely honest, I never cared for Legally Blonde as a movie. It was funny enough, and Reese Witherspoon is from my hometown, so I feel like I should like it. But I don’t. I think my main problem with it stems from the fact that Elle got into Harvard to stalk her ex while some other person who truly wanted to go to law school was rejected. I know that she comes to see Warner for the tool that he is and that she eventually excels at law. However, as a person who was rejected from a few doctoral programs, I still feel a little bitter.

That said, I had some preconceived notions about Legally Blonde: The Musical. With very few exceptions, any musical based off of a film is not going to be too great. For every Hairspray success, there is inevitably a Saturday Night Fever or a Footloose prepared to destroy the Broadway musical once and for all. Besides being based on a movie I don’t care for, the first song is called “Omigod You Guys.” As a former English teacher, that’s enough to make me want to kick puppies. The rest of the song titles seemed equally lame and generic. “What You Want.” “Find My Way.” “So Much Better.” “Whipped into Shape.”

Last fall, I attempted to watch MTV’s airing of Legally Blonde: The Musical since I could not conceive of any scenario in which I would plunk down actual money for an actual seat at the theatre. Perhaps the nicest thing I can say about the musical is that I didn’t completely hate it. The actors seemed to be genuinely excited to be there (you’d be surprised at how often some actors just go through the motions and don’t even try to hide it from the audience). The colors were bright and some of the choreography was pretty good. Consequently, if it is possible to make a good show based solely on enthusiasm, Legally Blonde would be fine.

Unfortunately, enthusiasm alone does not a good show make. The songs (as indicated by the titles) are repetitious and almost interchangeable. However, the oddest part of the Legally Blonde experience is the double-standard regarding looks. As Ben Brantley, the theatre critic at the New York Times pointed out in his review, the show tries to promote the idea that it is okay to be girly and smart. However, judging by the numerous jokes made at one character’s expense, it is not okay to not be pretty.

All in all, the entire experience was not unlike talking to a sorority girl from my undergraduate days; she seems perfectly lovely, but you get the sinking suspicion that, underneath that perky exterior, she is a real bitch.