It’s always nice when a family member comes home to pay a visit and it’s no different with the touring production of Legally Blonde. It started back in January of 2007 when it opened at the Golden Gate Theatre in San Francisco. Since then it’s gone off to Broadway where it played a relatively successful year and a half run at the Palace Theatre, got national recognition when they used MTV as a vehicle to find their new replacement of Elle Woods and even opened on London’s West End this past January to rave reviews. We’re glad to have the cute, spunky Malibu blonde back in the Bay Area. It’s not a perfect cast or show, but you’ll leave the theatre laughing because you’ve had such a good time. You might even change some of your wardrobe to pink!
Legally Blonde tries to shed it’s superficiality and show some heart as Elle Woods finds her way at Harvard University, but even though she finds true love in the end, the show still comes off as a bit frivolous. Part of that reason is the recurring theme of the opening and closing song is: “Omigod You Guys!”. Yes, that’s basically the title song and while a bit ridiculous, it’s a damn catchy tune.
The star of Legally Blonde isn’t who you think it is. You might think that Elle Woods (Becky Gulsvig), the leading lady, would be the star of the show, but she was far upstaged by two cute little doggies – Chico, the Chihuahua who stars as Bruiser, and Chloe, the bulldog who stars as Rufus. Gulsvig’s comedic performance was quite charming but the audience couldn’t contain themselves when either dog joined the performers on stage. There were ooh’s and ahh’s throughout the theatre. We all wanted more of the dogs!
The other star of the show was Kyle, the UPS delivery man played by Ven Daniel. He milked that part for all that it was worth and then some, but he carefully never crossed the “overkill” line. It was hilarious. Paulette – Kyle’s wife at the end of the show – (Natalie Joy Johnson) also gave a strong comedic performance as the crazy love-starved hair stylist (made famous in the movie by Jennifer Coolidge). While no one can ever top Coolidge’s performance, Johnson does a great job making it her own and still being extremely funny! Her epic songs, “Ireland” and “Bend and Snap” were some of the funniest moments in the show. Her accent came off very strong and at times, her words/lyrics were a bit muddied – especially at the end – but overall, she still was one of my favorite characters of the night.
Other strong performances were given by Tony Award winner, Michael Rupert, as Professor Callahan and D.B. Bonds as Emmett. Rupert was perfect as Callahan and had a great voice to match his hard-core lawyer demeanor. It seemed so Billy Flynn from Chicago – absolutely perfect! Bond’s charisma shined as he fell in love with Woods in Act II. When he transformed into a dapper-looking man in “Take It Like a Man” the audience cheered! We were all rooting for the good guy to end up with Elle at the end.
The spunky energetic choreography was also a highlight of the production and performed quite well by the ensemble. To be honest, it looked like it was too easy for them. I wanted to see more MTV-styled “music video” choreography and less Broadway-style infused choreography, but it was still enjoyable. (I had the same issue with Jerry Mitchell’s choreography when I saw the pre-Broadway try-out in San Francisco.)
There was a myriad of technical issues throughout the production ranging from incorrect or late light cues to even bringing the wrong set down, not to mention the uneven spotlight issues. It was the first performance in a new theatre, so I understand there might be a few glitches but it seemed more than just a few and it was distracting – especially when the spot-light operator couldn’t keep up with Elle in one of her songs or when one of the drops looked like it was falling a part at the seams. Hopefully, they’ll work on that so that future performance at Broadway San Jose will be up to par.
Even with these imperfections, it was still nice to welcome home celebration for a fun-loving show that should be seen by everyone.
Legally Blonde at Broadway San Jose
March 16th – 21st, 2010
Center for the Performing Arts – 225 Almaden Blvd., San Jose
Tickets: $20-$88 (866-395-2929)