Howard Panter for the Ambassador Theatre Group & John Frost
11 May 2013
Oh my god
Oh my god, you guys
I liked Legally Blonde
I was so surprised!
I really didn't think
it was going to be my kind of show
Oh My God!
Honesty, no one thought that I was going to like Legally Blonde: The Musical, least of all me – but how wrong we were! It's a hoot and an utter delight from start to finish and no where near as airbrushed, Barbie-pink, teen and dumb as its marketing makes it out to be.
Elle Woods is a sorority sweetheart at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) and heels-over-head in love with super spunk Warner. When Warner dumps her for not being serious, she decides that the only way she can get him back is by joining him at Harvard Law School. It takes some work, but she gets accepted, but is a pink-wearing beach-hanging rich girl from the west going to get along with the black-wearing scruffy intellects of the north-east?
I haven't seen the film, but am told that the musical takes a chunk from the original book by Amanda Brown. I don't care if it's not great or put in the "chick lit" (grrrrr) section of the book store, it's a book and when people read a book they like, they start reading more and society's intelligence goes up.
What makes the stage version such a joy is that it starts with a complex story and that all the cliched expectations of its story are shaken, tossed about, high-kicked and put back together in ways that celebrates the importance of being yourself. And what makes it stand out from some of our more recent commercial musical snores is a cast who are all playing the same show, enjoying themselves and daring the audience to not love it as much as they do.
Lucy Durack is Elle; she's wonderful and nothing like the Barbie princess on the posters. By finding her own balance between ditz and girly swat and by not being a cliche of either, her Elle is warm and loving and funny. I've since had a look at the film and Broadway Elles (I can't believe I grew up in a YouTube-less world) and Durack's bought enough originality to make Elle her own.
Which isn't to say that the rest of the cast are anything less. And I mean the human ones, as well as the dogs who deserve extra treats and tummy rubs for hitting their marks and being more disciplined than many human actors I've seen.
I saw David Harris in Miss Saigon in 2007 and knew he'd be one who'd make it because he brings emotion and guts to his characters. As scruffy intellect Emmet Forrest, he kicks spunky Warner (Rob Mills) away without trying too hard. And Mills is perfect as Warner, but needs to go deeper to give Warner an extra dimension and some sympathy.
Cameron Daddo is delightfully sleezy as Professor Callahan; Erika Heynatz is as tight as her amazing abs as the exercise queen accused of murdering her hubby, Brooke Wyndham; and Helen Dallimore as Paulette, hairdresser and new bff to Elle, almost steals the show with a gorgeous performance that's so full of love that you want her to be your bff too.
So why did I think I wasn't going to like it? It's a film that just never made it into my DVD player (although that's about to change), but the marketing of this show makes it look like it's for brainless tweens who give each other snaps and want to be in a sorority, even if they don't understand that it means getting into uni (and – thank the gods – that we don't have them here). It's all pink and princessey and airbrushed to make Elle look plastic.
And Legally Blonde is not that! There's an audience out there who love scruffy intellects, despise pink, have no idea what "props" are and don't need an explanation of what a Rhodes scholar is in the program, but, they only see this show as piece of unworthy fluff.
Legally Blonde is fluff, but it's more that expensive Iranian fairy floss than spun sugar on a stick. And, as the tickets aren't as bank-breaking as recent show, don't let the pink put you off!
(And if you're a student, there are special student rush prices: details on the Facebook page.)
This was on AussieTheatre.com.
Photos by Jeff Busby.