Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, the musical with songs by Jule Styne and Leo Robin about gold-digging flapper Lorelei Lee (the creation of novelist Anita Loos), was responsible for initiating the stage stardom of Carol Channing in 1949 and for consolidating the film stardom of Marilyn Monroe in 1953. That suggests there is more than one way to play the lead role, but it also presents two iconic figures for any subsequent performer to compete with, which may help explain why it was not revived on Broadway until 1995. (A reworked version called Lorelei, again starring Channing, ran on Broadway in 1974.) When Gentlemen Prefer Blondes did return, it did so in modest fashion, with a production that had originated at the regional Goodspeed Opera House, transferring under the auspices of Tony Randall's National Actors Theatre. The new orchestrations by Douglas Besterman employed only nine musicians in a sort of Jazz Age chamber style. Set in the mid-'20s, the show had nevertheless sounded of its time in the late '40s and early '50s, but Besterman really made the music recall the period. In this version, too, more of an attempt was made to put Lorelei's friend Dorothy Shaw (Karen Punzik) on a par with her, by adding numbers. She now participated in "Mamie Is Mimi," a song originally done by a specialty act, and in the interpolated song "A Ride on a Rainbow," plucked from the 1957 TV musical Ruggles of Red Gap also written by Styne and Robin. Yet the major issue remained, how would K.T. Sullivan handle Lorelei? She turned out to be more Monroe than Channing, but actually came off as her own woman, presenting a decidedly smarter dumb blonde than her illustrious predecessors, which actually was true to the dialogue and lyrics given to a character who is not so much calculating as pragmatic. And she sang well. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes may have been a better bet if it had run Off-Broadway in 1995 -- it lasted only 24 performances -- but it remained an entertaining show, especially in the hands of this talented cast.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
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