Elle Woods (Laura Bell Bundy) submits her "personal essay" for admission to Harvard Law School in the Broadway production of Legally Blonde, which is showing on MTV this weekend. Below, Christian Borle as Emmett, Elle and Richard H. Blake as Warner. Copyrighted photos courtesy of Barlow Hartman.
At 1 p.m. Saturday, the Copley household, like a lot of other Central Kentuckians, I'm sure, couldn't be in front of the TV. But after getting the birthday parties, soccer games, at THAT INCREDIBLE UK FOOTBALL GAME out of the way, MTV's airing of Legally Blonde was our primetime viewing. That came thanks to the miracle of TiVo, and I seriously mean "thanks" because, with kids watching, it let us skip the ads for some of MTV's racier shows and some of the inane commentary by the cast of The Hills, a show I am too old to be familiar with -- I'm from that cranky generation that likes to reminisce about the good ol' days when MTV showed music.
But at this point, I will stop picking on Music Television, because this was an evening of music and the network did a really good job of bringing the show to the small screen. (Blonde repeats at 7 tonight, and there's another showing set for 11 a.m. Friday.)
It was an unprecedented move for MTV and the Blonde producers to show a complete performance of a Broadway show on TV, while it is still playing on Broadway. And Blonde, which opened in April, is still pretty early in its run. But the logic was that the broadcast would probably help rather than hurt ticket sales, and frankly, it also exposed the show to a lot of people who probably never would have made it to Broadway to see the show with its original cast. With bootleg video clips of Blonde and numerous other Broadway productions littering YouTube and other video sites, it also seems to make sense to get an authorized, professional version out there.
The MTV production, culled from three performances of Blonde, captured most of the key moments and gave a sense of what it was like to be in the theater. There were some things that didn't quite resonate on TV like, surprisingly, the way Christian Borle's Emmett murmured, "Hello, kitty," when he first saw Elle's aggressively pink room and the punch at the end of the Act I finale, So Much Better. There, the cameras seemed to stuggle to get the full frame of Elle's sorority sisters spinning around so the letters on the backs of their hoodies spelled "ELLE WOODS," and Laura Bell's leap and blackout just wasn't as effective as it was live.
Blonde is an energy show, and you just aren't going to replicate the
energy of a the live performance. Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense is
one of the few times I can recall being really energized by a film of a
But film can do other things. The shot selection on Gay or European?, for instance, illuminated things about that song I hadn't caught seeing the Broadway production twice. And the comedy with Paulette, the hairdresser played by Orfeh, really snapped in the broadcast.
The biggest winner is Laura Bell, because after years of people talking about what a triple threat she is, anyone in the country with cable could finally see it for the duration of a Broadway performance. Prior to the announcement MTV was showing Blonde, If I had to hazard a guess what musical MTV might want to air, I probably would have said Rent or Spring Awakening. And who knows, maybe this is the start of a trend. But Blonde is the first beneficiary of the music networks interest, and it certainly benefited.