Thu May 3 2007
Photograph: Paul Kolnik
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5
David Rockwell and Gregg Barnes utilize countless shades of pink for the sets and costumes of Legally Blonde. They slather magenta, salmon, fuchsia, lavender and every known permutation of rose on the dresses, handbags and backdrops that whiz onstage and off with automated aplomb. If only director Jerry Mitchell and his other creative partners had found as many gradations of comedy and romance for this aggressively cute and brutally corporate entertainment machine, which makes a fast, hard grab for the teen-girl demographic.
Mitchell began his career as a choreographer, and he never lets you forget it through incessant, peppy routines spiced with arch borrowings from hip-hop and Irish step dance. But like Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin’s repetitive pop score, Mitchell’s moves quickly start to numb the senses and blend into one manic blur. Heather Hach’s undernourished book hews to the 2001 movie source: Vapid SoCal princess Elle Woods (Bundy) charms her way into Harvard Law to chase the shallow boyfriend who dumped her. Facing down antiblond prejudice, self-esteem issues and unwanted sexual advances, Elle becomes a hero to rich, beautiful misunderstood girls—and those who want to be like them.
These young ladies are the prime target for today’s Broadway megamusical, which Legally Blonde utterly represents: a garish, heavily marketed trifle adapted from a proven commodity, stuffed with product placement (Starbucks, JetBlue, Red Bull) and scored with synthetic ear candy. At least the talented cast distracts you from the meretricious material: Bundy gushes and twirls her way into a Tony-worthy performance, Christian Borle lends wistful understatement to Elle’s working-class love interest, and Orfeh brings comic chops and an earthshaking belt to her supporting role. The production’s human elements, alas, are the only things to dye for.—David Cote