It's been a difficult month, and I apologize for being remiss on this blog. But now I'm back.
One of the more notable joys of June was discovering a new favorite (non-Sondheim, but he's in his own category so other writers have a chance) musical.
Probably some of you have seen Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde. It's quite possible you don't approve of the trend of making musicals out of films. I know that generally speaking I don't, although said trend did bring us Spamalot, and I'm willing to forgive a lot for that.
That said, the Legally Blonde musical is fast-rising on my list of favorite musicals. Yes the songs are clever and entertaining, but the central message of the work as a whole, which is emphasized very differently from the film. The plot is the same; vapid but intelligent girl goes to Harvard law to chase boyfriend and discovers that she likes being a lawyer.
In the film, she succeeds because she is true to herself; succeeds with the tasks using her intelligence, social networking, and other feminine skills that the other law students discount. The musical, however, shifts that. Elle succeeds because she works hard. She is thrown one obstacle after another, and she learns to settle down, apply herself, and hammers each problem until it breaks. I can't think of the last time any media had that message, and it's one that really needs to come up more.
Films tend to tell us to be true to ourselves, and if we do that, we will achieve our dreams. Very seldom is there prolonged effort involved, usually just a moment of endurance, and sometimes one of inspiration. Elle Woods discovers when she pursues one goal that what she achieves in that pursuit is better than what she thought she wanted. She isn't staying "true to herself" she's finding new challenges to overcome, and discovers the joy of self-fulfillment. We need more texts like this. Especially ones with clever, catchy songs.