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NY Theater Reviews

Laura Bell Bundy and Christian Borle


By Bill Stevenson

Finally, an adaptation of a screen success that succeeds on Broadway. All hail, Legally Blonde and Laura Bell Bundy, for starters...

Think pink. That's the prevailing color in the bouncy new bubblegum musical Legally Blonde. With pink sets, pink costumes, and even occasionally pink lighting, this perky adaptation of the 2001 movie clearly has its sights on the young female theatergoers who've made Wicked a smash. Although many of Laurence O' Keefe and Neil Benjamin's songs are as instantly forgettable as they are insistently upbeat (à la The Wedding Singer), the spirited cast exudes so much zippy enthusiasm that the show is hard to resist.

Most energetic of all is Laura Bell Bundy (Amber von Tussle in Hairspray) as Elle Woods, the sorority sister who applies to Harvard Law School to win back her ex-boyfriend, Warner (Richard H. Blake). Her personal essay involves leading the UCLA band around the admissions office, and that lively ensemble number-briskly staged by director-choreographer Jerry Mitchell-is a first-act highlight. The first half's funniest song is "Ireland," in which Elle's hairdresser buddy Paulette (Orfeh) explains her love of all things Irish. "I pretend like I'm in Ireland with Enya and the whales," she croons. Unfortunately, there are also drippy tunes like "Chip on My Shoulder," sung by Elle and her law-school mentor Emmett (Christian Borle), and the so-so "Blood in the Water," featuring cutthroat Professor Callahan (Michael Rupert).

Luckily, the second act offers a droll courtroom scene (Heather Hach wrote the book) and a better ratio of strong to weak songs. "Whipped into Shape" has nifty jump-rope choreography, and "Bend and Snap" is a catchy crowd-pleaser. Best of all is the bubbly title number that lets Bundy cut loose. She not only looks terrific in Gregg Barnes' flattering costumes but also sings, dances, and displays the comic flair that made her a worthy replacement for Kristin Chenoweth in Wicked. Bundy also has the sense not to imitate Reese Witherspoon, who became a star thanks to the film. Orfeh (Saturday Night Fever) belts with gusto, Borle (Spamalot) makes a likable leading man, and Nikki Snelson is amusing as workout queen/defendant Brooke Wyndham. Andy Karl and Leslie Kritzer shine in supporting roles, while canines Chico and Chloe hijack scenes as Bruiser and Rufus, respectively.

Despite its uneven score, Legally Blonde is sure to be a big fat hit. Its producers can laugh all the way to the bank as Bundy and Co. charm Elle Woods-loving teens, tweens, twentysomethings, and even older folks craving a cheery, pink-hued musical fix.