Although blonde of coif and attitude, Elle will do -- ohmigod -- anything to win back rich, preppy stud Warner (Jeff McLean), who ditches her for Harvard Law School. She even foregos her partying ways to get herself accepted to the old Cambridge institution in order to show her ex-beau that she's got the brains to match her beauty, Indeed, the show's modus operandi is to keep giving 'em Elle -- and, no matter what, she always proves to be up to the task, whether it's getting an internship or winning a trial. She's Cinderella by way of Gloria Steinem, Marilyn Monroe, Hilary Clinton, and a pre-meltdown Britney Spears.
Filling those boots in an already strongly-stamped role -- first by Reese Witherspoon on film and then by Laura Bell Bundy and MTV contestant Bailey Hanks on Broadway -- is a tough job. But the appealing Gulsvig does all she can to make the role her own, while adhering to the rules of national tour replication. Indeed, audiences unfamiliar with the previous Elles will find her irresistible. It's a feat which is especially impressive, since the objects of her affection are played by actors who don't give her much to bounce off of. As Emmett, her inevitable replacement Prince Charming, D. B. Bonds sings well but lacks charm and sex appeal (even of the bookish kind), while McLean is attractive but bland.
The women fare better. As the Delta Nu sorority sisters who morph into an imaginary girl-group Greek chorus, Cortney Wolfson, Rhiannon Hansen, and Crystal Joy somehow manage to freshen up what's essentially a plot device. Also landing the laughs and the money notes are Natalie Joy Johnson, who gives convincing "pahk-the-cah" attitude as Paulette, Elle's hairdresser confidante, and big-voiced Megan Lewis as Vivienne, Elle's Harvard Yard romantic rival (and eventual soul sister).
While the songs by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin won't ever be mistaken for Cole Porter (or even Abba, for that matter), they are tuneful in a step class kind of way, and the lyrics do manage some clever rhymes and genuine flashes of wit. Heather Hach's book glosses over some painfully weak plot points, and scores some points for positive female role modeling. Gregg Barnes' costumes are neon-rainbow bright for the "fun" characters, and appropriately dull and tweedy for the Cambridge crew, with the whole enterprise (including David Rockwell's modified set) expertly lit by Ken Posner and Paul Miller.
The show's ultimate message, which is reiterated at the curtain call, is simply this: Those who wear pink and think pink and sing pink grab the gold every time.
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