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A Blonde Moment

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Damn you Brynne Edelsten!

Went to the Melbourne Opening Night of Legally Blonde - The Musical at the Princess Theatre and, for most of the first act, Lucy Durack seemed to be channelling  the  look, accent and  mannerisms of the Edelsten airhead -- the self-styled celebrity and TV ‘star’.

Couldn’t have looked or sounded dumber if she tried.  It was a distraction and I wasn’t imagining it because at interval the first thing a well-known theatregoer whispered to me was: ‘My God, it’s Brynne Edelsten’.

Even apart from that, I felt Lucy Durack, star of Wicked, was miscast, but to be fair, other people loved the show.  And the second act was better. The Sydney Morning Herald’s  Jason Blake gave it  four out of five stars and Cameron Woodhead in The Age  gave it 3 ½.

Woodhead, charitably, says Durack was ‘just slightly miscast’ as Elle Woods. Blake says her dancing is ‘less razor-sharp than that of her portable cheer squad’ but somehow it ‘only adds to her appeal’.

According to the Age reviewer:  ‘Legally Blonde works because it’s a generational update of the Marilyn Monroe “ditzy blonde” comedies, and you need a comic actress of great charisma to make it work’.

It goes back even further than that. Think of Born Yesterday. That fantastic Garson Kanin play premiered on Broadway in 1946 starring Judy Holliday. It was turned into a successful movie of the same name in 1950.

With Legally Blonde, they went the other way: movie first, then musical. I hadn’t seen the film but you could pretty well guess the plot and people who had seen the movie umpteen times thought the transition, with sparse sets and fairly pedestrian dance sequences – except for the skipping rope workout – not that successful. Hairspray it aint.

To me, there is something vitally lacking in a musical when the biggest reaction from the audience (and at the curtain call) is for a couple of performing dogs.  I know W.C.Fields once warned about the dangers of appearing on stage with  dogs or children  but Saturday night’s laughter and applause for the canines  was ridiculous. Almost depressing.

Rob Mills, who is kicking a lot of stage goals lately and will soon be seen in the return of Grease, is good as the career ladder-climbing Warner Huntingdon III. Cameron Daddo likewise as a Harvard Law School professor and courtroom maestro.

And a bunch of energetic young female dancers work their butts off as Elle’s  sorority sisters, alter egos and cheerleaders.

A confession:  I dislike it when a play or a musical just misses and producers, and even some critics, try to excuse it on the grounds that they know that and embrace it. It’s really part of the plot, you know.

The conclusion of Blake’s review touches on that:

‘Not for a second are you under the impression that what you are watching is great art. The show knows it and winkingly celebrates it. (See what I mean). But you are conscious, more or less constantly, that you are watching great entertainment. (Not). In the same way that Hairspray made your eyes burn, Legally Blonde makes your ears ring and your teeth ache. But, like, in a totally good way.

For a toothache I go to the dentist. Not the theatre.

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