Friday, August 14, 2009

Sweet! And Lo Legally Blond tastes great

Should I be surprised? The playful Legally Blond movie was so cheery and encouraging, shouldn't a staged version be equally enjoyable?

Success in one medium does no have to translate to success in a live format. Musical audiences demand non-stop, toe-tapping tunes. Musicals don't have to be bright and cheery, but the melodies need to be recognizable and evocative. Stage audiences usually have far less patience with the trite and cute. Why pay the high ticket prices when you can watch kittens frolic at home?

But Legally Blond at Hollywood's Pantages Theater was able to pull it off. The writing was fluffy, the music was sometimes corny, but overall, it worked. Here's a play where at first you may not want to root for the lead, Elle, but you've been irresistably drawn to her unfamiliar underdog position. Elle to me is both feminine and feminist, but feminist in a post-modern, acceptable to Fox News America manner.

I especially liked D.B Bonds, who played Emmett. He carried his role with just the right amount of charisma and, in his nerdier moments, awkwardness. The character was changed from the movie, with a boost to the play's basic themes. He even got what I thought was the best number, as Emmett had bee living all his young life with a chip on his shoulder.

For the movie, Elle eventually succeeded because chose to be the person she was meant to be and, somewhat, to do so in her own manner. In the play, a greater emphasis was made on the exploiting your individual strengths, character, and uniqueness, including quirky mannerisms. Emmett was goaded into success by Elle, which gave a nice complement to her own journey.

The dancing was very good, if rather frenetic. But the whirling dance routines, marred only by the oddly misplaced Irish riverdancing, needed to be wild, because the rolling music demanded it.

As noted by other critics, Reese Witherspoon as Elle is a tough act to follow. As such, one can't help but being disappointed that Elle wasn't a diva. Let's face it. This girl *must* be a diva. Whether it's the staging, the actress, the writing or her lack of show stopping numbers, Elle wasn't the diva that many of us wanted.

Though we lacked divas, we did have stage-stealers. The dog and the UPS guy, couldn't have had sappier and corny scenes, but who cares! And the various gay characters added some of that diva aspects, too, but that's still not going to catch up with Reese.

Finally, I did find that a sub-text of the show was left unexplored. We as a society were held to be rather a sad mob of the superficial. You can't succeed unless you can craft a first-impression look that dazzles. I find that disturbing, and the play didn't do enough to counter that sentiment. Yes, ultimately, inner beauty, strength and character were shown to be most important qualities, but only when brought out against the face of social pressures. Our hair-stylist and UPS guy actually offer the necessary counterweight, as they found happiness without those trappings. Sadly, it wasn't emphasized.

Will people find the musical light and forgetful? Probably, but many others can enjoy a story that's deeper than the movie and surprising in musicality.

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