I was aware of the film version though I hadn't seen it. But generally I liked the concept of women's empowerment that actively rejects femme-phobia, and it seemed the kind of ridiculous plot that would be well suited to a musical. In fact it was a thoroughly excellent production, I believe it was put on by a theatre school but seemed really professional.
The musical is great fun and I'd gladly see it again. The whole story is told through song and dance numbers with minimal dialogue and exposition, and it's just a great story, one that doesn't take itself too seriously but has plenty of drama. In the production we saw, the acting was superb, the singing and dancing mostly just good, but there wasn't a weak character in the cast.
I really liked what the show does with gender. It's not just the central idea that someone who is pretty and blonde and speaks with a valley-girl accent can of course be intellectually brilliant. I liked that Elle won the day not just by being good at academic law, but because her knowledge of feminine-coded topics like perms and sororities was actually relevant. There's a really cute makeover scene, where the male love interest is transformed from a somewhat dorky misfit to a sharply dressed hunk, which I don't think I've ever seen before. I love that the set-up from the opening scene where Elle's entire life is about getting the marriage proposal which never comes is subverted by her proposing to her sweetheart. The other woman is not mocked for caring about career success more than appearance, and the happy ending shows her and Elle ending their rivalry in favour of women's solidarity, much better than the more typical plot where the rival is punished for not being feminine enough to get the guy. The plot with Emmett overcoming the disadvantages of a poor upbringing is kind of cheesy, but it seemed to me like a good thing that the show at least addressed the fact that a rich, spoiled, pretty blonde woman may not necessarily be vapid and shallow, but does have real privilege.
The side-plot with Elle's hairdresser friend Paulette was just wonderful, especially as they gave that role to the best actress in the cast. Squee they had real live dogs! playing the roles of Elle's handbag dog and Paulette's big bruiser that she wins back from her awful ex. The thing is, that side-plot is based on sending up American romanticism about Ireland, which was very funny but also somewhat cringey. In my opinion jokes about leprechauns and Irish dancing are funny, jokes about knee-capping and terrorism maybe not so much. I did like the gender subversion of having the secondary love interest be a dumb-but-pretty young man who shows off his bulging muscles and tight bum to the older woman (and the audience!)
Also it's very much of its era in its portrayal of gay men. I mean, basically sympathetic, it's a musical after all, but very much all about the campy camp camp camp. Gay or European? is probably the most memorable number, and I don't want to try to take it too seriously but it's not the most sensitive plot point catching out a gay man lying about his orientation because he doesn't respond to Elle wiggling her bum in front of him. Also there was a tiny bit of completely unnecessary blackface, with background characters who have about one line wearing makeup to match their I assume supposed to be AAVE dialogue.
angelofthenorth found a dear little French restaurant right by the theatre, Bouchon de Rossi. They have a completely non-functional booking system involving leaving messages on an answering machine, but we managed to get a table anyway as we showed up very early on a weekday evening. Service was very good, food was pleasant but a little over-priced for what it was, and didn't really seem very French to me. Very, very nice Loire white, though, and excellently indulgent desserts.
Basically we had a completely glorious evening and left with that happy excited feeling you get from a really well done, light-hearted and dramatic show.
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