'Legally Blonde' shimmys to the stage at Fair Park Music Hall

Written by DSM Columnists on Wednesday, July 22, 2009 at 7:28 AM

12:06 AM CDT on Wednesday, July 22, 2009
By LAWSON TAITTE / The Dallas Morning News
ltaitte@dallasnews.com

You may not come out of Legally Blonde humming the tunes, but this show will leave you as pumped as a two-hour cardiac workout.

The stage adaptation of the popular movie, a modest hit on Broadway, arrived at the Dallas Summer Musicals on Tuesday. It keeps up a breathless pace as heroine Elle Woods, the seemingly shallow blond bombshell who follows an ex-boyfriend to Harvard Law School, discovers a whole new perspective on life.

Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin, who rewrote their Sarah, Plain and Tall for the Dallas Theater Center this spring, tell the story mostly in song. Their lyrics, as cute and clever as Elle herself, are worthy successors to those of their great Broadway predecessors. They give us good tunes, too, but the incessant melodic patterns seldom relax and luxuriate. They just keep percolating like a triple shot of espresso.

The real mover of this theatrical whirlwind, though, is director-choreographer Jerry Mitchell. Over the last decade, he has established himself as one of the American theater's great storytellers through movement. Like the score, the dancing seldom settles into a stand-alone number, at least before intermission. Throughout the musical someone onstage is stepping, shimmying or gyrating in ways that move the plot along. The second act finally gives us some release with production numbers based on exercise videos, sexy poses and, of all things, Irish step dancing.

As Elle, Becky Gulsvig looks a lot like the film's Reese Witherspoon. She sounds even more like Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth. (Those with strong negative reactions to squeaks and other high pitches may find themselves at risk.) Gregg Barnes' costumes expand the boundaries of pink, mauve, hot pink and not-quite-crimson. Gulsvig wears them smashingly.

For those who crave a bit of old-fashioned fun from their musical comedies, preferably with a smidgeon of uplift and optimism, with a bevy of shapely young bodies to boot, Legally Blonde is guilty as charged.

PLAN YOUR LIFE Through Aug. 2 at Fair Park Music Hall. Runs 160 mins. $15 to $85. Ticketmaster at 214-631-2787, http://www.ticketmaster.com/.

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