Legally Blonde Review – Downstage Centre

DSC review of ‘Legally Blonde’ by Christchurch Theatre Club 23.01.17 by KATHRYN MCAULEY Rating out of 5: 4.0
If there was ever a lesson in accentuating the positive, Christchurch Theatre Club gave chapter and verse, in their effervescent production of ‘Legally Blonde the Musical’. And thereby demonstrated the moral of the tale – that a life-affirming, positive attitude can get you a long way – and stereotypes and snobbery shouldn’t stand in your way.
Based on the popular film starring Reese Witherspoon, ‘Legally Blonde the Musical’ follows the transformation of Elle Woods from fawning girlfriend, defined by her relationship with her preppy boyfriend Warner, to successful lawyer with an independent future ahead of her. Having been dumped by said boyfriend, Elle works hard to get into Harvard but there, with the help of friends Emmett and Paulette, realises her own worth both morally and intellectually. This is the heart-warming tale at the centre of the show and it’s a vehicle to carry a large number of hugely energetic, memorable songs and dances, and to introduce a panoply of characters from the sublime to the ridiculous.
The ditsy but bright Elle was played by Lucy Maden with a lovely lightness of touch and comedic timing – a stark contrast to the last character I saw her perform, Evita – there seems little she cannot tackle with aplomb. She was supported throughout by an exuberant group of girls (or ‘greek chorus’) – Margot, Serena and Pilar – plus ensemble, who were 100% on it in 100% of their musical numbers, giving a level of energy it is hard to believe will last all week! Phew!
The male leads lent a little more gravitas (but only a little), James Daw as Warner carrying off ‘privileged and arrogant’ with some panache and a strong voice. Ashley Bright as Emmett had warm vocals and drew us in with his charming portrayal of ‘everyman’ – the duet with Elle in the eponymous song ‘Legally Blonde’ was a highlight.
Some of the best – and perhaps most surreal – moments in the show belonged to Julie Easter, playing the larger-than-life Paulette. In ‘Ireland’ she delivers the following lyrics with great relish:
“The Irish fear nothing and no one, They keep fighting ’til everyone’s dead” – which doesn’t sound very funny – but as an Irish woman, I was roaring with laughter. There follows later an Irish dancing number, which I’m pleased to say was done very much tongue in cheek and more fun for it. Julie has a huge belting voice with great control and was a pleasure to watch.
There were many smaller character parts, all performed with conviction and confidence. A few of my favourites included Craig Butterworth as a gyrating Rastafarian – and a lady jailbird – you have to see it to believe it! And congrats to Anita Benson who had more costume and wig changes than I could actually count and presented each character afresh.
Technically, there were a few little hiccups in this production, primarily in the sound but the staging was simple and smooth, with lighting adding much depth. The Orchestra was excellent, with a lot of underscoring to be tackled and what seemed like a lot of key changes, but as ever at CTC, producing a superb sound. Michael Gamble, Director and Choreographer, brought out all the pizzazz and fun of the show with fast-moving, upbeat dances throughout. The ‘What You Want’ number, complete with cheerleaders, was great fun, but it was the choreography of movement throughout the show that was particularly effective, interwoven with each song and scene so that it seemed perfectly natural and enhanced each character.
Having seen the show before, a few of the songs can be rather politically incorrect, but CTC produced it with such whimsy and vivacity, not taking themselves or it too seriously, it allowed the audience to just enjoy the escapism and embrace all that is pink and fluffy.