Bend and droop

Posted on 23 Jul 2009 at 10:50am

What "Hairspray" is for gay men, "Legally Blonde: The Musical" is for tween girls… OK, and gay men. It’s a girly-girl musical in the benevolent airhead mode, at once empowering for women (look! girls can be smart!) and fully of silly romanticism (as long as they do it for love!).

Does that make for stage magic? It sort of does, when director-choreographer Jerry Mitchell has the savvy to put muscular chorus boys in tight-fitting costumes. There’s even a paso doble between two men that ends in a kiss and the audience doesn’t gasp in horror (not too loudly, at least).

But the touring production at Fair Park (soon to move to Bass Hall) — as sickeningly Pepto-pink as a mass autopsy at the Hello Kitty factory — feels a bit tired. As Elle Woods, the perky California chick who heads to Harvard Law to pursue her boyfriend and ends up astonishing even herself, Becky Gulsvig, pictured, is a bundle of brightly-colored energy. And Jeff McLean, playing her arrogant paramour Warner, has a beautiful voice and an assured plastic-as-a-Ken-doll vacuousness that serves the character well. (He’s actually better than the original Warner on Broadway.) But they are surrounded by droopy performances.

As Paulette, the unconfident beauty salon owner, Natalie Joy Johnson flops like a Toni Home Perm in a summer swamp. Her big solo "Ireland" should be full of pathos, but she rushes through it, going for the easy comedy (which is not all that easy) and missing the meaning. D.B. Bonds as the schlubbly romantic interest who really likes Elle is a total blah.

The score by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin is clever without being witty — wit doesn’t fly well with pre-teens — but eventually the songs begin to fade into each other, a collection of bubble-gum pop without any caloric value but with the kick of a sugar fix. It isn’t filling and may not be very good for you, but hey, a little junky indulgence never hurt anyone.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

At Fair Park Music Hall, 909 First Ave., through Aug. 2; at Bass Performance Hall, 525 Commerce St., Fort Worth, Aug. 4–9.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 24, 2009.

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