I hear music

If you’ve been paying attention to Broadway, you know the current trend is to turn movies into musicals. At one end of the spectrum you have your hits like The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Hairspray, The Color Purple, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Full Monty and The Producers. At the other end, you have your Footloose, Urban Cowboy, The Wedding Singer, Big and The Mambo Kings.

Even the rise of the jukebox musical (Jersey Boys, All Shook Up, Good Vibrations, Mamma Mia!) hasn’t displaced the movi-cal as Broadway’s desperate grab for cash.

Two upcoming entries are High Fidelity, based on the Nick Hornby novel and 2000 movie of the same name, and Legally Blonde, based on the 2001 Reese Witherspoon movie.

High Fidelity has a Web site that allows you to listen to four of the songs by Tom Kitt (music) and Amanda Green (lyrics). My theater-writing colleague in Chicago, the estimable Kerry Reid, asks me to share the following lyric with you because she hates it so much:

You paved the way for romance/when you kept him out of your pants.

Hard to argue that one. The songs on offer are of the bland, pop-rock Wedding Singer variety with traces of Rent here and there. What’s unappealing about the High Fidelity songs — and maybe they’re brilliant in the context of the show — is how humorless they are. There’re supposed to be laughs in there somewhere, but they’re buried in the strenuous effort to be hip and rockin’.

Legally Blonde: The Musical has an in-progress Web site, that will launch in late November. But I have heard four of the songs (music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin) on a demo CD, and though they have a similar Wedding Singer meets Hairspray meets Rent vibe, they’re actually fun and funny. The catchy “Omigod You Guys” is actually a little too catchy, and I can’t quite shake it, while “Take It Like a Man” (about the joys of shopping, so get your minds out of the gutter) is guffaw-inspiring in a good way.

If I were an investor listening to sample songs from each of these two new shows, I’d put my money on Blonde. The good news for Bay Area Theater Dogs is that Legally Blonde has its out-of-town tryout in San Francisco in January.

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