LEGALLY BLONDE, THE MUSICAL
OSHAWA LITTLE THEATRE
Produced by Liz Pask, Musical Direction by Michelle Morrow, Staged Managed by Amanda Cook, Choreographed by Shari Coulter, Directed by Janet Gilliland
I can’t recall much about the film version of LEGALLY BLONDE except moments of a very blonde and young Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods and Victor Garber as sleazy law professor Callahan. I remember some interesting camera shots of the Harvard Law school campus and thought it would be a treat to walk those hallowed grounds. With this sparse information, I didn’t know what to expect with the musical.
Critic Ben Brantley of the New York Times called LEGALLY BLONDE, THE MUSICAL “high energy and empty calories…to the glories of girlishness” and ya know what, Mr. Brantley? There’s nothing wrong with some empty calories now and then.
Sorority fashionista ‘valley girl’ (wow, am I showing my age) Elle Woods (an endearing performance by Nicole Daniel) is unceremoniously dumped in a restaurant by her superficial boyfriend Warner Huntington III (a slick Derik Gould), who is looking for something more serious than Elle can provide. Warner later learns that looks do not always get what you want.
Out of ‘love’ and a desire to win him back, Elle follows Warner to Harvard to attain a law degree. Then there is the subplot of Elle’s internship under Callahan’s guidance to help sorority sister, Brooke Wyndham (Shelby Cunliffe) out of the murder trial of her pool boy. The plot is improbable, but so what? There is boundless high energy and youthful exuberance to entertain us on the Oshawa Little Theatre stage to April 22 and, in this respect, it’s ok to indulge.
In her Programme Notes, Director Janet Gilliland says her key production team of Producer Liz Pask, Stage Manager Amanda Cook, Choreographer Shari Coulter and Music Director Michelle Morrow all shared the same reason why they wanted to be involved in this production. Pink is power. Girl power lives on in this musical. This production team has worked extremely hard on this show for over a year, and their dedication to and love of this musical is clearly revealed in the painstaking attention to detail in many areas of work on stage and behind the scenes.
Colin Huges’ lighting design is smooth and fluid. Sound design by Alex Konc is crisp and clean. Once again, props to Costume Designer Amy Lawrence and her selfless team who spent, I’m sure, countless hours of preparation to clothe the 34 performers where some had played up to three individual characters. I was pleased to see that the Set Construction and Decoration team headed respectively by Zach Unger, Steve Gilliland and Liz Pask assembled pieces that were easily maneuvered by actors since pacing and safety are of utmost importance when sets have to be in place quickly. I was amazed how the grand sorority staircase, which opens the show, was only used twice and then never seen again.
As in all musicals, pacing is of utmost importance to keep the plot moving along. For me, one sticking point in pacing occurs if the audience has to work at deciphering lyrics to songs if the orchestra is too loud. Periodically, in this production, the sound balance between the orchestra and actors is overpowering and this slows down the action. The audience has to do double duty to hear the clever lyrics that add to the plot. I’m positive this slight exception will be rectified at the next performance as the audience wants to be in on the fun with the on stage action.
Nicole Daniel is delightful as the bubbly, bouncy Elle Woods. By the end of the play, we root for her as she has learned that it is a fine for a woman to be independent. After Elle is embarrassed for wearing the wrong clothing to class, nice guy and law teaching assistant Emmett Forrest (a plausible performance by Chris Cullum) wants to help Elle fit in. It is the nice guy in this respect who wins in the end.
As unscrupulous and sleazy law professor Callahan, Phil Cook is solid as a hard nosed, no nonsense instructor in “Blood in the Water”. Although its context is blatantly sexist, Elle’s ‘Greek Chorus’ friends Margot, Serena and Pilar (Kayla Tripp, Mikayla Gilliland, Laura Murphy) deliver uproarious laughter and amusement in the importance of learning to “Bend and Snap”. Donna Lajeunesse is enjoying herself tremendously in the dynamite character role of Elle’s confidante hairstylist and manicurist, Paulette Buonofuonte. Most assuredly, Ms. Lajeunesse can belt a tune and it’s always a pleasure to hear her sing. Dressed in dark colours, Mary Soln as Vivienne Kensington becomes a comedic, threatening foil of bitchiness contrasted with the colourful, spring like stylish elan of Elle. The ensemble players are a lively, vibrant mixture of performers ranging in age from late teens up to someone in his early 80s who are relishing in the moment of making audiences laugh.
LEGALLY BLONDE, THE MUSICAL continues at the Oshawa Little Theatre, 62 Russett Avenue April 13, 14, 15, 20, 21 and 22 at 8:00 pm. Tickets may be purchased at the door or visit the website for further information.