Saturday, June 6, 2009

Legally Blonde: Omigod, That Music! (Part 1)

As I mentioned in a previous column, the Legally Blonde Original Broadway Cast Recording is probably destined to be one of my most-played new Broadway scores. The biggest reason for that is there are tons of really fun songs—“Omigod You Guys,” “Whipped Into Shape,” “Bend and Snap,” and many others. In addition to the infectious music and lyrics, however, there are two other reasons to love this score.

Perfect Placement
First of all, I think it’s important to comment on the perfect placement of songs in Legally Blonde. Songwriters Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin (as well as bookwriter Heather Hach) really use the songs in Legally Blonde to highlight important points, not just to advance the story or to establish character. Yes, songs like “Serious” and “Bend and Snap” are not only well-placed but are also typically placed for musicals. What I’m referring to, however, are songs that establish plot points or character emotions that later have payoff.

For example, how perfect is “The Harvard Variations”? Before Enid is even finished, the audience is thinking, “Holy cow, is Elle out of her league here.” Beforehand, we have an inkling that Elle is going to be in trouble at Harvard, but because of “The Harvard Variations,” we are painfully aware that she is way in over her head, particularly when Aaron, Padamadan, and Enid begin to reprise their verses.

“So Much Better” is perfectly placed as well. In order for “Legally Blonde” to work in Act II, we need to understand how important getting the internship is for Elle. Part of the song is dogging on Warner for undervaluing her, but the overarching idea is that earning her spot in the internship is so much better than having Warner, that she “is so much better than before,” “before” being the Elle that opened the show in “Omigod You Guys” and “Serious.” When Callahan fires her, it stings because being a successful lawyer is her new Warner, because of what is established in “So Much Better.”

“Find My Way” is a simple but very important number. I don’t know if the movie has a moment like it, but it’s important for Elle to have a scene to acknowledge her growth, to complete the journey that started with “What You Want,” changed direction with “So Much Better,” is finalized in “Legally Blonde,” and is resolved in “Find My Way.” This is Elle’s chance to acknowledge her growth, to admit that she was “living in ignorant bliss” but that there is “still so much to learn.” How she states it is also an acknowledgement of her growth—she’s no longer dogging on Warner, verbally spitting in his face. Instead, she admits, essentially, that he was right when he dumped her and that his dumping of her was a time for growth. She has even grown to the point that she declines his proposal with kindness. It’s not just the sentiment that’s important, but it’s also how Elle says it is crucial to her development.

the Broadway Mouth
June 6, 2009

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