We all know the story of Elle Woods, a sorority girl who enrols at Harvard Law School to win back her ex-boyfriend Warner. Originated by the writer Amanda Brown in the novel of the same name, Legally Blonde was made famous by its 2001 film adaption, starring Reese Whiterspoon in the lead role. In 2007, the film was brought to the stage by Laurence O’Keefe, Nell Benjamin and Heather Hach. The original production was praised for being fun and upbeat, and was nominated for 7 Tony awards.
Despite being far from perfect, St Mary’s College’s take on the hit musical was fun, entertaining, and left the audience crying with laughter. The drama committee, led by Loretta Martin and Bevan Madden, needs to be commended for their (ambitious) choice: it is refreshing to see a musical featuring a large ensemble of empowered women who “don’t need no man” to succeed.
Putting on a musical in the Guild Theatre isn’t an easy task. With limited backstage space and room for choreography and movement, I was curious to see how St Mary’s College would tackle this challenge. I was pleasantly surprised with the simplicity of the design; sometimes less is more.
The sets, designed and built by Julia Crowe (ICAC’s The Book of Everything, St Mary’s College’s Grease, UMMTA’s Urinetown) were simple but cleverly engineered, with moving panels representing different locations. The orchestra placement, in the centre of stage, surrounded by elevated platforms, worked well and added another dimension to the settings.
Despite being out of time during certain numbers, the orchestra generally played well. However, the use of backing tracks during two numbers was rather disappointing: the sound balance was off and the quality of the music mediocre, throwing the actors off and making those two songs hard to enjoy.
The choreography was enjoyable, but the ensemble lacked energy and was nearly always out of sync. Special mention to Mariah Mwiptayi for keeping the energy up throughout the entire show.
Amelia Vuillarman was convincing as the lead character Elle Woods. She looked as though she was genuinely having fun on stage, and her comedic timing was refreshing. She hilariously handled a wardrobe malfunction early on in the show, and never broke character. The supporting cast was also quite impressive. Matilda Gibbs’ (ICAC’s Company) portrayal of Paulette, a down on her luck manicurist, was touching and amusing. Likewise, Eleanor Davey’s (ICAC’s Company, UMMTA’s The Hatpin) performance in the role of Enid Hoopes was a highlight of the show. Portraying Vivienne Kensignton, Sofia Habel offered a strong vocal performance in the title number Legally Blonde. Angus Yarrum also deserves a mention for his strong characterisation of Professor Callahan.
Highlights of the show include the opening of the second act, an impressive jump-rope routine (Whipped Into Shape) led by Lily Dale. Lily should be commended for her ability to sing and jump at the same time in what is certainly the most energetic number in the entire show. Other highlights include Paulette’s Ireland, and There! Right! There, one of my favourite songs in the show.
Overall, the show was touching, funny, and while lacking energy at times, it was clear that the cast and the audience were having a fantastic time.
St Mary’s College’s production of Legally Blonde – The Musical is on in the Guild Theatre from 18th – 20th August.