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Review - Legally Blonde the Musical: Top of the tree production

Elle (Stacie Hobbs) and right Paulette (Natalie Ridoutt). Photos: Christopher Thomas

Legally Blonde The Musical

Music and Lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin

Based on the novel by Amanda Brown and the MGM motion picture

Directed by Johanna Toia

Presented by Savoyards

Iona Performing Arts Centre

Season Mar 5-19. or phone (07) 3893 4321.

Legally Blonde follows the story of Elle Woods, a young vivacious ‘Malibu’ blonde who is intent on marrying Warner Huntington III, only to have her dreams dashed when he decides to get serious on his path to Harvard Law and eventually a US senator and dumps her. Elle follows him to Harvard Law to prove to him she can be serious and win him back only to find a new path opens for her in the process.

From the outset, this show is lively, energetic, fast paced, colourful and very pink (Elle’s signature colour). The musical numbers are accompanied by great choreography (Jo Badenhorst) and a wonderful orchestral score provided by the live orchestra, which was balanced nicely with the singing on stage.

Elle Woods is played superbly by Stacie Hobbs and she is every bit the character portrayed by Reece Witherspoon in the movie. Move over Reece, you have competition. Stacie has a fantastic singing voice, powering her way through the many numbers, ably assisted by the wonderful singing talents of Jesse Ainsworth (Emmett Forrest) or Marcus du Toit (Warner) in duets.

Vivienne (who is Warner’s new fiancée) was played by Emma Hambleton and she was also every inch the stuck-up, snooty, and continuously looking down her nose at Elle, who she considers not her equal on any level.

Professor Callahan was played by Shane Webb, who was spot on with his portrayal of the legal eagle who also doesn’t think Elle will amount to much. Paulette, the girl in the hair salon, was played by Natalie Ridoutt. Natalie was utterly fabulous in the role and her singing was amazing as well. In fact, the whole cast cannot be faulted for their performances – it was just excellent.

I particularly liked the sorority girls who turned up as a Greek chorus (because Elle was suffering a tragedy and therefore a Greek chorus was called for) as Elle’s conscience. This sort of silly nonsense was rampant throughout the show, either in lyrics or as visual innuendo.

I also liked Kyle, the UPS delivery man, played by Reindert Toia. We don’t get to see him strut his stuff until the second act, but it is worth waiting for. Another character who must be lauded is Brooke, played by Louise Drysdale.

Brooke is the defendant, accused of murdering her husband. She had the most difficult singing/dancing number I have ever seen on stage and she didn’t miss a beat vocally. There would not be too many who can manage a vigorous workout routine and sing at the same time without sounding like they were trying to catch their breath after the first verse.

And of course, the show would not have been complete without the two four footed actors – Bruiser Woods, the Chihuahua (Mali) and Rufus, the bulldog (George). They were just so cute, and George upstaged the actors every time he came on stage.

The costumes (designed by Kim Heslewood) were fantastic, ranging from suits to sweats with everything in between – Elle’s wardrobe, of course, being dominated by pink.

The set (designed by Jessica Ross) was just right – not too many large pieces to be moved on and off stage, leaving plenty of room for the large dance numbers. Props being brought on by actors where needed (particularly the courtroom scene) and good use made of the two side wings. All scenes glided smoothly from one to the other with no hiccups, allowing this show to be very snappy. The department store scene, I thought, was very clever with a back piece providing hanging clothing and then a dressing room being brought on in two pieces that clipped together for Emmett to change from his glad rags into a suit, bought for him by Elle. All of the set pieces from the inside of the sorority house (a set of stairs leading to Elle’s bedroom door) to the hair salon, to the courtroom bench which spun to become the bathroom at the crime scene, were excellent.

I loved this show. It is probably one of the best musicals I have seen in a long time. From the moment the show started to its end, it was funny, lively, bouncy, frothy, (with some serious bits) and incredibly well done. Credit must go to its Director (Johanna Toia), Musical Director (Mark Beilby) and Choreograper (Jo Badenhorst), as well as the numerous people who assist in getting these productions to stage. Savoyards has a hit on their hands with this one.

Legally Blonde is on for a short season at the Iona Performing Arts Centre. If you miss it, you’ve missed out on a truly marvellous production.

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