The plot of Legally Blonde will be familiar to most people, and though there are some differences between the popular movie and the stage musical, the celebration of friendship and traditional femininity is still central. With so many big musical numbers requiring strong voices and dedicated dancers, it’s certainly an ambitious choice for student theatre, especially for first time director Alex Guérin. But while there may have been technical issues and an overall feeling of chaos, the Queen’s College Music and Drama Society manage to pull off an amusing and endearing show.
The songs and script are already full of comedy, but Guerin added his own distinct touches. Small moments of physical comedy were particularly strong, like Bruiser’s entrance in the opening number – where a small stuffed dog is suddenly thrown into centre-stage – or Fraser Ross as the UPS guy sauntering across the stage in a captivating but bizarre entrance.
Anna Williams as Elle Woods was the energetic and bubbly heart of the production. Her voice was impressive, but she also brought charm and humour to the role, particularly Elle’s friendship with Emmett, played by Noah Heys. Their relationship didn’t sacrifice playfulness for romance, which helped their arc to feel realistic, despite being rushed into the last few songs.
Ellie Hamill was another standout as Paulette Buonafonte, the down-on-her-luck manicurist who befriends Elle. Not only was Hamill a captivating performer, she also managed to be hilarious and a little ridiculous without turning the character into a joke. It always felt like we were laughing with Paulette, not at her, and the audience was excited whenever she came on stage.
There were many strong singers in the cast, but Monica Ledger as Brooke Wyndham deserves particular mention for managing to carry the lead vocals in ‘Whipped into Shape’ while doing a jump-rope workout and ab exercises. The song never lagged despite these exhausting feats, and Ledger maintained a level of charisma and personality throughout. Steph Markerink was another standout as Serena, one of Elle’s sorority sisters and a supportive voice in her head. She was full of energy throughout the show but really shone in ‘Bend and Snap’. Nick Schinckel as Warner was appropriately slimy and selfish, but also brought life to the comedy of ‘Serious’.
It’s hard to decide on the best song in this musical, but ‘There! Right There!’ was certainly a crowd-favourite. The lyrics were perfectly underscored by Alex Faehrmann’s sultry Nikos, and Matt Castle’s grand entrance as his angry boyfriend, Carlos.
The costumes overall were well chosen to convey character, with the notable exception of Elle Woods. Not only were Elle’s costumes distinctly 2000s, despite many references and other characters’ costumes marking the show as more contemporary, but based on her outfits it was hard to believe this character had any interest in fashion. The show, and Williams’ character, would have been much better served by a greater departure from the aesthetic of the 2001 movie, and more consideration of what’s fashionable today.
There were microphone troubles throughout the show, which certainly isn’t a problem unique to this production, but in a musical, and one with so many large and energetic numbers, it was a significant drag. Lyrics were lost by microphones not turned on, or kept too low, and songs that should have been fun and upbeat were marred by feedback and distractions.
Overall, there may have been technical issues and Legally Blonde may be an unwieldy show for amateur theatre, but this was an enjoyable production. It definitely feels like an amateur musical, but the singers were strong and the story fun. Given most of the production team were new to their various departments, what they’ve pulled off is pretty impressive.
Queen’s College Music and Drama Society’s production of Legally Blonde the Musical runs from the 20th – 23rd of September in the Union Theatre.