A Kinky kick in the pants

Kinky Boots 1
Steven Booth (left) and Kyle Taylor Parker are Charlie and Lola in the Broadway national tour of Kinky Boots with a Tony Award-winning score by Cyndi Lauper. The show, based on the 2005 movie of the same name, is part of the SHN season at the Orpheum Theatre through Dec. 28. Below: Booth’s Charlie takes a fancy to Lindsay Nicole Chambers’ Lauren. Photos by Matthew Murphy

Kinky Boots is the kind of musical comedy that leaves no unpleasant aftertaste. There’s no guilt in enjoying its pleasures, and though it’s not exactly an emotional feast, neither is it empty calories. This is a well-crafted, tuneful show whose only aim is to entertain and uplift. It succeeds on both counts.

A huge hit on Broadway, where it racked up six Tony Awards and is well into its second year, Kinky Boots is based on the 2005 film of the same name, one of those distinctly British underdog feel-good movies they do so well over there. Harvey Fierstein, adapted the movie, Cyndi Lauper made her Broadway composing debut with the score, and Jerry Mitchell (last seen in these parts with the Broadway-bound Legally Blondereview here) directs and choreographs in his typically efficient, ebullient manner.

The national touring production of Kinky Boots now at the Orpheum Theatre as part of the SHN season is, in short, a blast. It’s tender hearted, energetic and filled with good will toward men, women and those who have yet to make up their mind.

What’s intriguing about the structure of the show is that there’s no great villain other than hard times and closed minds. Set in a Northampton, England shoe factor on the skids, the story is about a son reluctantly taking over the family business, finding a way to save it from extinction and challenging his community’s (and, it turns out, his own) basic attitudes of acceptance. Compared to Legally Blonde, a less successful screen-to-stage adaptation, this is Shakespeare or Greek tragedy.

Several elements contribute to the high level of Kinky enjoyment. The first is Fierstein’s book. This is a man who knows his way around drag queens (Torch Song Trilogy, La Cage aux Folles, Hairspray), so when it comes to dealing with his leading lady here – a fierce drag queen named Lola – he knows how not to write in stereotypes. He knows how to depict a fully rounded person who is confident in some parts of her life and not in others (daddy issues anyone?). He gives us two protagonists: Lola, whose flair for fabulous footwear is the key to survival for the shoe factory, and Charlie, a shoemaker by birth who doesn’t quite know what he wants in life or who he is. There’s also a third main character in the form of the entire shoe factory community, which grows to include Lola’s entourage of drag queen friends. By the end, that community turns out to be the most rewarding character of all.

Kinky Boots 3

If you want to know how to move a show like a sexy, well-oiled machine, Mitchell is your man. The trick is not letting the machine overwhelm the production, lending a cold, mechanical feeling take over the stage. Mitchell is a master at this, slowing the gears for moments of warmth, charm, humor and sex appeal.

And finally there’s Lauper’s score. If you only know her mega-hits from the ’80s, you’ll recognize some of that sound in the songs. She can do club and disco with real flair and not make it seem out of place on the musical stage. But there’s a lot more here to her musical palette. She can do character songs (“The History of Wrong Guys” sung by Lauren, the delightful woman Charlie should be in love with), heart-wrenching ballads (Lola’s “Not My Father’s Son”), great pop tunes (“What a Woman Wants”) and driving, stirring anthems (“Raise You Up/Just Be”). This is not some pop pretender cashing in on Broadway. Lauper is a real tunesmith who cares about character and narrative. It will be exciting to see what project she takes on next.

This zippy package is driven by an amiable cast headed by Steven Booth as likable everyman Charlie and the powerhouse Kyle Taylor Parker as Lola. Booth is intriguing because he might be dismissed as a nice nebbish (think Dave Foley from Kids in the Hall), but he’s got a little edge to him, and when he sings (as in his big solo, “Soul of a Man”) he commands attention and defies expectations (a theme of the show). Parker starts fabulous and stays that way. In full drag, he looks like an ultra-glam Dionne Warwick, and he wears the costumes (by Gregg Barnes) with real panache. He delivers on every level and even gets his Act 2 Shirley Bassey moment with the power ballad “Hold Me in Your Heart.”

The emotional stakes in Act 2 get a little overwhelmed by the slick staging (a boxing match between Lola and a factory thug packs a punch), and the actors could dial it up a notch, but Kinky Boots remains a well-heeled musical that’s good for the sole, er, soul.

[bonus interview]
I talked to Kinky Boots co-creators Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein for a feature in the San Francisco Chronicle. Read the story here.

Kinky Boots continues through Dec. 28 at the Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St., San Francisco. Tickets are $75 to $300. Call 888-746-1799 or visit www.shnsf.com.

Terrence McNally, catch him if you can

I wrote a feature on New Conservatory Theatre Center’s Some Men by Terrence McNally for today’s San Francisco Chronicle.

You can read it here.

Here are a few pieces of my interview with Mr. McNally that didn’t make it into the newspaper.

Terrence McNally

In addition to Some Men opening this week at the NCTC, McNally has a few other irons in the fire:

  • Last month he wrapped a critically lauded revival of Ragtime (he adapted E.L. Doctorow’s book with Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens providing the score) at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. The cast (which McNally describes as “much younger than the original company) included Christiane Noll as Mother and Manoel Felciano (now in Edward Albee’s At Home at the Zoo here in San Francisco at American Conservatory Theater) as Tateh. The show was so well received, in fact, that there were meetings about a possible transfer to Broadway. “We’ll see,” McNally says. “That would make a lot of people happy.” The show has a whole different production team, headed by director/choreographer Marcia Milgrom Dodge, but even more than that, McNally says, the country has gone through a seismic shift since Ragtime opened on Broadway in 1998. “The show has a relevance now it didn’t have with the election of Obama,” McNally says. “You view a show like this differently through the lens of current events. People think we’ve re-written it, but it’s not like it was show that didn’t work the first time.”
    McNally isn’t exactly making plans for opening night on Broadway. “I don’t celebrate anything until I’m seeing the curtain go up,” he says. “So much can go wrong at 11:59, which I’ve learned after many bitter disappointments. I’ve learned not to celebrate just because we had a good meeting…but things look really good. We’ll see.”
  • This summer, McNally is a West Coast kind of guy. This week at the La Jolla Playhouse, McNally opened his play Unusual Acts of Devotion with a cast that includes Doris Roberts (“Everybody Loves Raymond”), Richard Thomas (“The Waltons”) and Tony-winner Harriet Harris (Thoroughly Modern Millie) under the direction of Trip Cullman. The show runs through June 28, and then the writer heads up to Seattle (with a likely stop in San Francisco to see NCTC’s Some Men).
  • Toward the end of July, at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre, McNally is part of the creative team behind the Broadway-bound musical Catch Me If You Can (based on the book and movie of the same name). Much of the team behind Hairspray – composer Marc Shaiman, lyricist Scott Wittman, director Jack O’Brien, choreographer Jerry Mitchell – have reunited for this show. McNally is the new kid on the block, but after The Rink, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Ragtime, The Full Monty, A Man of No Importance and The Visit, he’s no stranger to the world of musical.
    Rather than depending solely on the Steven Spielberg movie that starred Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank Abagnale, a slippery young con artist, McNally has turned to Abagnale’s original book for inspiration. “I hope I have found an emotional resonance to make audiences care about the characters,” he says. “A stage version cannot compete with the movie and its hairbreadth escapes and chases involving airplanes. Maybe someone could do that in a theater. I don’t know how. So my story is much more about the psychological chase of the FBI agent assigned to bring Frank in. It’s a father-son surrogate story. Frank’s real father let him down, and this motivates much of his action. We have musicalized the story, not put a movie on stage, which can very often be the case when movies are translated to the Broadway stage. I’m very proud of this piece.”
    It has been said that working on a musical out of town can be one of the most trying, aggravating and crazy-making experiences on earth. Not for McNally. This is his seventh time out, and he has yet to see the kind of drama people expect from Hollywood versions of backstage drama along the lines of All About Eve. “There’s this preconceived notion of the leading lady throwing down her mink and stomping out,” McNally says. “That has never been my experience, but I have to say it’s an exciting thing to do. There’s a lot of pressure and high emotion. But I don’t ever anticipate being hysterical. I anticipate being challenged and hope I rise to that challenge with my sense of humor and sanity intact. In the writer’s room or in the rehearsal space, the play is the most important thing, the only thing in the world. But out in the street, in the real world, there’s a more important life beyond that.”
  • Some Men, which ran off Broadway two years ago at the Second Stage Theatre (under Cullman’s direction), celebrates gay history and the relatively swift march toward equality in the form of legalized same-sex marriage, which is a given in the play. McNally and his partner, Tom, were civically united in Vermont. “We thought we were doing a political act,” McNally says. “We’d go to Vermont and give the state another number. But the emotions were so strong. The night before we both got so thoughtful at the profundity of it. Our people are raised on `what you do is illegal and criminal and society hates you.’ But to stand in the country and get married. It was…People staying at the inn watched the ceremony, and by the end there must have been 30 people cheering for two strangers. It was incredibly moving to say to another person: `I am yours to the end, for the long haul.’ The change in this country is just amazing. Gay men and women had half-visible, half-not roles for years. They might have been accepted but were frowned on, not embraced. Now I feel such clarity with my friends. I know they take Tom and me just as seriously as any other married couple.”


Terrence McNally’s Some Men continues through July 12 at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco. Tickets are $22-$34. Call 415-861-8972 or visit www.nctcsf.org for information.

What the Elle? Bailey conquers `Blonde’

The three remaining girls (from left), Bailey, Autumn, Rhiannon, face the judges one last time. B’bye Rhiannon. Photos courtesy of MTV.

Well let’s just be thankful it’s over.

MTV’s reality show “Legally Blonde the Musical: The Search for Elle Woods” began seven weeks ago with 50 girls and, as the voiceover told us, “the most intense audition in theater history.”

A bunch of pink outfits and a WHOLE lot of simpering and whimpering later, we have our winner, and may I just say, I totally called this one.

After last week’s mega-challenge in which the remaining three girls had to show off their triple-threatedness, we were promised an early elimination, and sure enough, spunky Rhiannon was ousted for being, well, too darn spunky (and for not having a good enough voice).You’d think girls named after Fleetwood Mac songs would go farther in this world.

That left Autumn and Bailey to duke it out on the stage of the Palace Theatre performing three numbers – “Oh My God You Guys,” “Positive” and “So Much Better” — with the Legally Blonde set, orchestra and cast members. And here’s the twist – they had to rehearse all three numbers in a day.

And just to give them an extra, added little zing, the girls’ parents and, in Bailey’s case, lookalike siblings, were flown in and put in the audience where the cameras could watch them writhing in agony as the girls performed competitively.

The usual judging panel – casting agent Bernie Telsey, Blonde co-writer Heather Hach and cast member Paul Canaan (is he REALLY the “toast of Broadway” as hostess Haylie Duff proclaimed?) – was augmented, mercifully, by Blonde director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell, a man with more than a lick of sense, who would ultimately make the final choice.

I loved it when Mitchell told Bailey she was a victim of “shmacting,” meaning she overplayed out to the audience too much.

We saw healthy chunks of both girls’ performances intercut with subtitled comments from the judging panel. It was clear from their girlish giddiness that the judges were loving Bailey and merely admiring Autumn for her beautiful voice. Autumn seems to admire her every asset enough for everyone, so it all balances out in the end.

[SPOILER ALERT] And of course the winner was South Carolina’s own Bailey Hanks, 20. The reveal was anticlimactic and dumb. Then Bailey had to perform “So Much Better” again with the surprise twist that all the previous contestants were her back-up sorority girls. Though we hardly had a moment to take in the reunion as the credits started to roll.

Bailey begins performances at the Palace Wednesday, July 23. I’d go see her if I could out of sheer curiosity and to see if she has the stamina for an entire show. Visit www.legallyblondethemusical.com for information.

Ghostlight is going to release Bailey’s single version of “So Much Better,” the first act closer, on iTunes beginning today (July 22).

And here’s more news: reality shows come in handy when re-casting for a tour or filling in slots on a long-running Broadway show. According to Playbill.com, “finalists Autumn Hurlbert, Rhiannon Hansen and Lauren Zakrin have all been cast in either the Broadway production or the first national tour of the musical, which launches in Providence, RI, Sept. 23…Hurlbert, the first runner-up in the competition, will understudy the role of Elle Woods on Broadway and will perform in the ensemble. Zakrin, the youngest contestant on the reality show, will understudy the tour’s Elle Woods, Becky Gulsvig, and will also be a member of the ensemble. And, Hansen will play the role of Margot, Elle’s best friend, on tour.”

Now one last visit with the brilliant vocal coach Seth Rudetsky, who should have a reality show all his own. Brava, Seth.

`Blonde’ reality getting puke-y

So now viewers aren’t the only ones hurling during MTV’s “Legally Blonde the Musical: The Search for Elle Woods.”

We’re down to six girls at the start of this week’s episode, and by the end of the dance audition, one of them is seen on her knees in a bathroom stall heaving up her guts. Classy.

The girl with the upset tummy was Autumn, the hero of this week’s episode. She got the best line when she admitted she’s not the world’s greatest dancer: “Dance is at the bottom of my triple-threatedness.”

She also gets the Elle Woods merit badge for cheering up the girls when, after at taxing day of dancing on the cobblestone streets of Brooklyn in pink, four-inch heel boots, they are asked to fill out a nasty questionnaire about who they think the worst singer, dancer, actor is of the group, who should have been sent home already and who do they think will win. Autumn quickly reversed the situation by totally disregarding the questions and re-writing them in a more positive, most-improved light.

Aside from Autumn, how boring was this episode? Oh, pretty darn boring. Emma whined some more about her bronchitis. Host Haylie Duff said “the next Elle Woods on Broadway” about 100 times, the girls talked about how exciting this was but how sad that was. Excited and sad. What incredible insight!

I did like Legally Blonde cast member and assistant choreographer Nick Kenkel ragging on Lauren’s face. I’ve decided that when she smiles, she’s adorable – kind of a blond Katie Holmes. But when she’s not smiling – uggh. She scares me. It’s sort of a depressive Miss Piggy.

But I’m getting mean, which indicates boredom. Back to Nick. I liked his dance direction: “Scoop through peanut butter and snap it.”

In the audition, where the girls performed the “Shake Your Junk” section of the song “Positive” (with fun, sexy, humpy choreography that is soooo Jerry Mitchell), the girls who aced it were Natalie, Bailey and Lauren. I think I’m favoring Bailey at this point, even though the show’s editors are trying to paint her as a scheming, bitchy competitor. Natalie’s cute and has great energy, but she comes across as a little girl. And Lauren, well, I think I’ve been clear on that point.

Shortly after her audition, Autumn experienced the Technicolor yawn and — surprise! — ended up in front of the judges in the casting office alongside whiny Emma. [SPOILER ALERT] The judges did the right thing and bid adieu to Emma, who did not have the right lightness for Elle. Good news is now she can start smoking again!

Don’t miss Seth Rudetsky’s wrap-up of the whole episode here. It’s better than the real thing.

And here’s Bailey shaking her junk in the full performance.

The horror of `Blonde’ reality TV

Thanks to my trusty DVR, I did not have to watch “Legally Blonde the Musical: The Search for Elle Woods” when it aired on MTV on Monday.

I can tell this one is going to be painful — but maybe in a “feel sleazy and need to take a shower after” way. You’ve got a bunch of hopeful young (YOUNG!) actresses aiming for Broadway stardom as Laura Bell Bundy’s replacement in the musical Legally Blonde, which frankly, should probably have closed by now (theater occupancy is just over half full much of the time). Are they maybe hoping this reality show casting stunt will boost business and help the imminent tour (mercifully not coming to the Bay Area — we’ve done our Blonde time).

Episode one was very Chorus Line wannabe with Mitchell and dance coach Denis Jones winnowing the group of 50 down to 15 and then down to 10 by the end of the hour. There’s a rocker Elle (isn’t there always a rocker?) named Celina, and she says she’s from San Francisco. Anybody know her? And famed Broadway director Jerry Zaks has a relative in the bunch (granddaughter? daughter?). One of the other girls had a grandmother on Broadway — not sure who that is.

Anyway, the best part of the show is vocal coach Seth Rudetsky, who teaches the girls the song “So Much Better.” If you don’t know Rudetsky from his column on Playbill.com, you should. He’s hilarious and quippy and knows everything there is to know about Broadway. I could use a reality show about Seth and not so much about the blondes.

The opening montage of things to come nearly did me in with its flood of tears and flurry of tantrums as the girls attempt to bend and snap their way to stardom by stomping on each other all the way to the top.

Haylie Duff (older sister of Hilary) is the host because she has been in a Broadway show (Amber in Hairspray), and she’s obnoxious in all the usual overly dramatic reality show ways. She talks like Jeff Probst on “Survivor,” which is to say that everything she says has the import of a State of the Union address, even though she’s talking about taking the girls to a vocal rehearsal.

The judges are director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell, who will make appearances and keep tabs on the proceedings but wisely removes himself from the day-to-day craziness (he’s also on that Bravo dance show, so who has the time?); casting director Bernie Telsey, Heather Hach (who wrote the book for Legally Blonde the Musical), and Legally Blonde cast member Paul Cannan (who quips that he wanted to be cast as Elle Woods but there were size issues).

This thing goes on for eight weeks. Not sure if I can withstand that, but I’ll check in every once in a while. If anything of note transpires — beyond tears of frustration, desperation and ambition — I’ll be sure to let you know.

Visit MTV’s official “Search” site here.

You can’t stop the beat!

Brooklynn Pulver (above center) is Tracy Turnblad in the touring production of Hairspray. Photo by Phil Martin

Last summer, it was yet another musical breathing new life into the revival of movie musicals.

This summer, it’s an actual, three-dimensional live musical happening before your very eyes.

Hairspray, one of the happiest musicals around, is returning to the Bay Area. The show — described as “Broadway’s big fat musical comedy hit” — will play San Francisco’s Orpheum Theatre June 10 through 22.

This tour — the same one that was in Cupertino in February — is based on Jack O’Brien’s original direction and Jerry Mitchell’s original choreography, recreated, respectively, by Matt Lenz and Danny James Austin.

Sorry to report that John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Queen Latifah and Zac Efron are unavailable for the tour and will, for the moment, confine their performances to the silver screen. But wouldn’t it be fun to see if they could do it as well LIVE?

For information visit www.shnsf.com or www.hairsprayontour.com.

Review: “Legally Blonde, The Musical”

Merry musical `Legally Blonde’ dazzles and delights
3 1/2 stars Bright, shiny `Blonde’

(opened Feb. 6, 2007; photos by Paul Kolnik)

The opening number from Legally Blonde, The Musical is, like, really catchy.

So much so that the refrain, “Oh. My.God. Omigod, you guys,’’ bores into your brain and refuses to exit in a timely manner.

It helps that the song accompanies one of the liveliest opening sequences seen on a musical theater stage in quite a while. With expectations riding high, Legally Blonde shoots out of the gate like a prize, Prada-clad stallion and races toward that elusive goal of Broadway immortality.

That is the goal of every new musical, right? Some – like Wicked or Hairspray — even achieve it, to varying degrees.

The latest entry is yet another new musical based on a movie. Unlike last year’s vampire stinker Lestat, this one has blood pumping in its veins. And that blood is a bright shade of pink.

Legally Blonde, The Musical had its world premiere Tuesday at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Theatre, where it runs through Feb. 24 and then re-opens at New York’s Palace Theatre in April.

For a just-hatched show, this Blonde is in awfully good shape, though (not to disparage blondes in any way) it doesn’t have a whole lot going on in its pretty head.

And that’s OK. Sometimes you just want a musical to shake its sparkles at you and make you smile. Rather than feel guilty about that, if the musical is crafted with a degree of skill and intelligence, you can sit back and enjoy.

That’s the kind of show Legallly Blonde is.

Except for that opening song and the title tune, the score by the husband-and-wife team of Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin treads the line of pleasant if unremarkable pop and disco with hints of R&B. There are cute numbers, like “Bend and Snap” and “Take It Like a Man” (an ode to shopping, naturally), but the songs just don’t soar.
Heather Hach’s book attempts to make characters more interesting than they were in the 2001 movie, which, frankly, isn’t much of a challenge. Reese Witherspoon was adorable, but the pleasures of the movie don’t go very deep.

Our heroine, SoCal sorority president Elle Woods (Laura Bell Bundy), has the kind of confidence you don’t often see in a protagonist. We catch her at a weak moment: her chiseled boyfriend Warner Huntington III (Richard H. Blake) has just dumped her because a man with his political games needs “less of a Marilyn, more of a Jackie.’’

Warner’s off to Harvard Law School, and rather than be a victim, Elle decides to follow him.
This means we get a massive production number called “What You Want’’ in which Elle’s a-poppin’. She eschews the standard admissions essay in favor of a marching band, a flag team and a stage full of people singing her praises.

Of course the ploy works, and once she’s admitted, she has many important lessons to learn about being taken seriously and allowing her considerable intellect to compete with her golden locks and designer wardrobe (vibrant costumes by Gregg Barnes).

The hero in all of this is Jerry Mitchell, the Tony Award-winning choreographer who makes his Broadway directorial debut with Legally Blonde.

What you see on stage at the Golden Gate is pure energy and heart. Mitchell and his cast light musical theater sparks several times, but the best number — and a welcome slice of sheer musical theater delight — comes in Act 2 with the unimaginatively titled “Legallly Blonde Remix.’’ David Rockwell’s busy set goes away, Ken Posner and Paul Miller’s lights flare up, and it’s just the cast dancing and singing up a storm, with a whiff of “Riverdance” and a lot of humor.

There are disappointments — like how little Michael Rupert as a cocky law professor and Kate Shindle (Miss America 1998) as Elle’s primary foe have to do. And the score continually promises more memorable things than it actually delivers. Where, for instance, is Elle’s defining, sing-it-to-the rafters number? The ballad version of “Legally Blonde” doesn’t cut it. What does legally blonde mean, anyway?

And the romance between Elle and Harvard teaching assistant Emmett (the charming Christian Borle) is still a few flames short of a blaze. It’d be nice if Emmett had a song that didn’t repeat the phrase “chip on your shoulder” until it hurts.

But then again, there are pleasures like Bundy’s cute-as-a-button Elle, Orfeh as sassy hairdresser Paulette and Andy Karl (Orfeh’s real-life husband) as the UPS guy who steals Paulette’s heart and nearly steals the show.

Though they’re more effective as valley-talking sorority sisters than as Elle’s only-in-her-brain Greek chorus, Annaleigh Ashford, Leslie Kritzer and DeQuina Moore ratchet up the vivacious quotient whenever they’re onstage. They help rev up the feel-good, girl-power motor that keeps the musical buzzing right along for more than 2 1/2 hours.

Legally Blonde, The Musical is a show that wants to delight our inner teenage girl. Not everyone has an inner teenage girl, but for those of us who do, omigod you guys, get ready to be tickled pink.

For information on Legally Blonde, The Musical, visit www.shnsf.com.

Pretty in pink

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Laura Bell Bundy (in pink, naturally) as law student Elle Woods faces off with a law professor (Michael Rupert), much to the delight of fellow student played by Kate Shindle (left) in Legally Blonde, The Musical at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Theatre. Photo Credit: Paul Kolnik

We here at Theater Dogs don’t believe in reviewing shows before they’ve opened, but we’re not above buzzing when the preview buzz is good.

Legally Blonde, The Musical had its first preview on Tuesday (Jan. 23) at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Theatre. Spies in the house reported that some set snafus that had dogged final rehearsals were absent and that the show — which opens here Feb. 6 and heads to Broadway with previews beginning April 29 at the Palace Theatre — is a heck of a lot of fun.

Our spy Dogs had a rollicking good time at the show, with especially high marks going to director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell’s big numbers, Laura Bell Bundy’s unflagging energy and charm and a couple of razzle-dazzle songs.

Reminder: this is not a review, but the spies did have a three-word summation: MAJOR CROWD PLEASER.

For more Legally Blonde info, visit www.shnsf.com.

Jerry’s kids

The SHN/Best of Broadway folks threw a party at Ruby Skye nightclub the other night to entice group ticket buyers to show some love for Legally Blonde, which has its out-of-town tryouts in San Francisco early next year at the Golden Gate (yes, the Golden Gate because they couldn’t built the necessary elevator lifts under the stage at the Orpheum, where the show was originally slated).

Jerry Mitchell, who’s making his Broadway directorial debut with the show (and who also will provide his Tony Award-winning high-energy choreography) was introduced by SHN’s Carole Shorenstein Hays as, “One of the most talented young people of our era.”

Mitchell was joined by star Laura Bell Bundy (Elle Woods), composer/lyricist Laurence O’Keefe (his composer/lyricist cohort, Nell Benjamin, was literally going into labor with her first child in Los Angeles) and co-star (and former Miss America) Kate Shindle as Elle’s brunette nemesis.

After the presentation, Jerry Mitchell and I hustled over to posh eatery Michael Minna for an interview over wine (syrah) and extraordinary appetizers: the ahi tuna tartar and the seared scallops. Unfortunately, the food was so good I don’t remember anything Mr. Mitchell said.

Kidding. I remember it all, and you’ll read it here and in Jones for Theater in the coming months.

I will tell you this: after he takes Legally Blonde to Broadway, Mitchell is heading for Sin City. As the originator, director and choreographer of the annual fundraiser Broadway Bares, Mitchell is a well-known fan of burlesque. Well, he’s taking coals to Newcastle. He’s creating Peep, a strip show starring Little Bo Peep and her fairy tale friends for the Hard Rock Hotel. Andrew Lippa (The Wild Party) has written the score. The show, for which the Hard Rock is building a theater (that’s how they roll in Vegas — build it and they will come), was supposed to usher in the New Year as 2007 turned into 2008, but they’re all so hot and bothered about Mitchell’s show that they want it earlier.

First comes the blonde, then comes the burlesque. Hasn’t it always been thus?

More later, dogs.