Julie Stevens (no login) Posted Jun 9, 2008 3:20 PM
By MIKE HALE
Published: June 9, 2008
MTVs Legally Blonde the Musical: The Search for Elle Woods now theres a title to savor presents us with the usual sort of reality-contest questions. Will it help or hurt 25-year-old Emma that she looks like Reese Witherspoon, the original Elle Woods, and that her father, the director Jerry Zaks, has won four Tony Awards? Will Lauren, the 18-year-old with the dead eyes and the forked tongue, become the designated villain? Is blond hair natural or otherwise an advantage?
Those who love Broadway musicals will have other questions too. Like: What must Laura Bell Bundy be thinking?
Its Ms. Bundy, the star of Legally Blonde on Broadway, who will be replaced by the winner of this competition sometime after the TV shows eighth and final episode. (The second is on Monday night.) And while she may not be a Kelli OHara or a Patti LuPone, Ms. Bundy is a legitimate star at the center of a grueling production, and shes currently giving theatergoers as much singing-and-dancing value for their $120 as anyone on Broadway.
Based on the first episode the gulf between the 27-year-old Ms. Bundy and the 10 fresh-faced, likable, lightweight hopefuls in The Search for Elle Woods average age 22 is so vast that we seem to be watching two different musical-theater species. (Ms. Bundy is shown in clips from the musical and gives the finalists a brief pep talk.)
Even the ministrations of the shows coaches and judges who include the musicals director and choreographer, Jerry Mitchell; its casting director, Bernard Telsey; and the author of its book, Heather Hach arent going to bridge that gap. (The owlish Mr. Telsey gets to deliver the dismissals: Unfortunately we just dont see you as the next Elle Woods.)
But thats just kvetching. (Especially when the original musical filled only 63 percent of the seats at the Palace Theater in the week ending May 25.) These young hopefuls are better suited than Ms. Bundy for one thing, of course, and thats getting women their own age to watch a reality television show.
They give the impression that they were plucked from the sidewalk outside the MTV studios and havent stopped squealing since. And as callow as they are, watching them being put through actual numbers from the musical, and comparing the results, is more interesting than watching celebrities learn how to tango.
If it comes down to Lauren and Rhiannon, the wide-eyed 19-year-old belter from Utah, Ill still be watching, even if a victory by either one takes us another step closer to the end of Broadway as we know it.