JT's Blog

Things that interest me, things that happened to me, things that I like, even some things that I don't like...

Legally Musical?

Yesterday I saw the Walnut Street Theatre’s production of Legally Blonde: The Musical and I enjoyed it.

It’s a genuine musical comedy, filled with likeable characters, high voltage dance numbers, and committed performances; the only thing it lacks is music—but I’ll get to that.

Last week when I saw my neighbor Georgia, she introduced me to her future daughter-in-law, whom, she said, was appearing in the Walnut’s Legally Blonde. So I ordered a ticket for yesterday’s performance.

And then I realized that I didn’t remember Georgia’s future DIL’s name. What if I didn’t recognize her under her stage makeup? Or worse, what if I mis-identified her? I checked the production’s web site to see if I could pick her out from the publicity photos, and I thought I could, but I wasn’t absolutely certain.

That’s Lindsey Bliven as Vivienne in the center

So I did the sensible thing and knocked on Georgia’s door to ask. As it turned out Georgia’s future DIL was there, and her name is Lindsey Bliven (check out her web site), and she showed me a picture of herself in her stage makeup (and yes, it was the same one that I had tentatively picked out). Furthermore, she said she plays the mean one.

And although I’ve only met Lindsey for a total of about four minutes, she seems to have a sweet, outgoing disposition, but she absolutely plays mean very well. Really the whole cast is outstanding. As I said I enjoyed myself.

The plot is pretty simple and fairly predictable in its broad outline: The protagonist Elle Woods is dumped by her boyfriend because she, a sorority girl, isn’t “serious” enough for him as he plans to go to Harvard Law School and become a Very Important Person. So Elle resolves to follow him to law school in order to win him back.

One of the sub-plots features a UPS driver, a hair stylist, and a dog

The book of the show was written by Heather Hach (it’s based on a novel and a movie), and I think it’s one of the strongest books for a musical that I’ve seen. It completely avoids the second act problem that plagues so many shows where they get bogged down working out the plot trying to wrap things up and keep the audience engaged. If anything, the second act is stronger than the first.

Alas, the songs by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin are, how shall I put this? They stink.

If a cat had stepped in spilled ink and randomly scattered some notes on a musical staff, it could have come up with more memorable tunes than these two people did. I don’t seem to be alone in my assessment; Clive Barnes in his review of the original Broadway production referred to the “amorphous, synthetic, and maniacally empty-headed music”. As to the lyrics, I barely understood a word during the ensemble numbers. The solo (dare I call them) “songs” fared better as I was able to make out about 80% of the words, and they were serviceable, no more.

As to the intelligibility of the words, I don’t blame that on the cast, I blame that on the sound crew who had the amplified volume turned up so high it was actually distorting the sound.

But enough negativity. Despite the fact that this was a musical where there was no music, only amplified noise, I did enjoy it and get involved in the story. That is a tribute to the well written book and the excellent performances by a large cast of humans and two dogs (who steal every scene they appear in).