Arts & Entertainment
'Legally Blonde' sentences you to a good time
By Martin F. Kohn
Originally printed 10/22/2009 (Issue 1743 - Between The Lines News)
A cute little Chihuahua and an adorable bulldog scamper about in "Legally Blonde The Musical," and while they may reflect nothing more than an attempt to ramp up the awww factor (it works), darned if they don't symbolize our heroine, Elle Woods. She begins the show as a cute little college student whose only aspiration is a proposal from her boyfriend, but once she gets her teeth into something more significant she doesn't let go.
As in the movie "Legally Blonde," it's Harvard Law School, perhaps the last place you'd expect a fashion merchandising major from Malibu, even one with a 4.0 grade point average. But there's nothing average about Elle. She goes off to Harvard chasing after her boyfriend but finds something much better: herself. This is a fish-out-of-water story where the fish evolves and develops lungs, despite everyone who would scoff at her.
Speaking of lungs, not only does Becky Gulsvig, who plays Elle, sing impressively, hers is a voice with subtext. In her first number, "Omigod You Guys," when Gulsvig dips down into her lower register she reveals a hint of resolute maturity.
This may make it sound as if "Legally Blonde" has more uplift than a concrete Wonderbra (to quote the late film critic Kathy Huffhines), when the show really delivers a whole lot of fun. It features a Greek chorus (Elle's sorority sisters); a juicy murder trial; a send-up of "Riverdance;" singing, dancing students reminiscent of one of those 1930s college movies where everyone does the varsity drag; those dogs, true love discovered and a happy ending.
Sure, parts of the story strain credulity (a young lawyer who's never seen a department store? Really?) and among the songs, by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin, nothing adheres after the curtain comes down.
Weigh that against a first-rate cast, clever sets (by David Rockwell), a pace (established by director-choreographer Jerry Mitchell) that never bores and a heroine who's winning in every sense.
'Legally Blonde The Musical'
Broadway in Detroit at the Fisher Theatre, 3011 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit. Tuesday-Sunday through Nov. 1. $30-$80. 313-872-1000. http://www.broadwayindetroit.com
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