Choral Ambiguities

Legally Blonde makes a workout video; Coram Boy makes a mess

Coram Boy—dramatic Handel, filched Dickens
Joan Marcus
Coram Boy—dramatic Handel, filched Dickens

Details

Coram Boy
By Helen Edmundson
Imperial Theatre
249 West 45th Street
12-239-6200

Legally Blonde
By Heather Hach, Laurence O'Keefe, and Nell Benjamin
Palace Theatre
1564 Broadway, and 47th Street
212-307-4100

And "exercise," you might say, is the show's key word. It deals partly with an aerobics-video queen's trial for murder, and the constant choreography often looks like one of her workout tapes: Mitchell's most surprising failure, for a Broadway dance-maker of his stature, is that he never, except in one subplot-related spoof moment, lets dance take over and supply those emotional peaks which the writers merely treat as footnotes in passing. Instead, his goal seems to have been to turn the show into the live equivalent of a music video, as if its teen-gal following wouldn't notice the change from two dimensions to three. David Rockwell's set pieces dance busily along, and Laurence O'Keefe's music, a severe letdown, caters unimaginatively to the nonstop chug-chug. Against it, hearteningly, Nell Benjamin's lyrics, well-heard, up to date, and funny, often create brightly surprising textures; Luckier than Bundy, Orfeh, as Elle's beautician chum, gets to take over the stage with a song. The main men in Elle's life having been colorlessly cast, the supporting players keep catching your attention: Michael Rupert as the crusty professor that Elle has to conquer, Kate Shindle as her resentful rival, Andy Karl as the beautician's UPS hunk, Natalie Joy Johnson as a lawyer with a penchant for same-sex relations. Each of them grab some of those precious moments where the show's creators ease up on the pressure tactics and remember that they're making a new musical, not selling a used car. These days on Broadway, it isn't always easy to tell the difference.

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