Finishing up their 2018 season with a blast of hot pink, Queensland Musical Theatre bring an electric production of Legally Blonde to stage. With a book by Heather Hach and music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin, Legally Blonde explodes onto stage in a riot of colour and noise, with a driving plot, and a host of loveable characters the show is a theatrical favourite.
With direction by Tony Campbell, musical direction by Julie Whiting, and choreography by Julianne Burke. Legally Blonde is staged with a largely multipurpose set, plenty of energy from the large ensemble, and the orchestra set high above the stage on a mezzanine. Campbell’s design and direction keeps the show moving forward at a clip, and this intent is mirrored in the high energy, thoroughly drilled choreography, and the tight grip Whiting keeps on the orchestra and ensemble, constantly pushing forward.
Campbell must also be credited with allowing his cast to fully explore the potential for characters. We rarely got the cookie cutter version of the character, everything was nuanced and different, less obvious choices were made to keep the show (which has been done many times in SEQ) feeling fresh.
In the title role of Elle Woods, Genevieve Tree dominates the stage in her pink pumps and over the top blonde hair. She delivers an Elle that is strong from the start and just gets stronger. Bulldozing her way through the obstacles in her way and decisively going after she wants. It gives a harder, but valid, edge to the character, shedding the traditional ditzy beginnings in favour of a larger than life, confident and capable character. Tree has a powerful voice and more than holds her own throughout the show, singing and dancing her way to the heartfelt finale.
As her beau to be, Emmett Forrest, Dylan Hodge is eminently likeable, and more than delivers on the character growth audiences have come to expect from the character. Hodge has some difficulties in his upper register, but still gives a commendable performance through all of the vocal work. He has good chemistry wth Tree, serving as a mentor, rather than a guide to helping Elle find her true path, putting the relationship constantly more on an even keel than is necessarily presented in the original material.
As jilting lover Warner Huntington III, William Boyd gives a suitably schmaltzy performance. He brings a touch of goofball to the role, rather than an overwhelmingly suave portrayal, but this does nothing to make him more endearing to the audience. Boyd gives us a Warner that is constantly unlikeable. A curious contrast though, Abby Page’s Vivienne Kensington lacked some of the aggressiveness that is often presented with the character. Instead Page presented as a peer, somewhat spikey and jealous, but overall far more collegiate than other incarnations of the character.
As sleek legal shark Callahan, Puawai Herewini brought a sharp edge and smooth, powerful vocals. Giving us a softer, sometimes too kind Callahan, Herewini still found the right beats to give the Professor. Especially throughout the murder trial scenes, where he brought a delicious ruthlessness to bare.
Dominating the second half of the show, Lauren Conway as Brooke Wyndham stole the show, skipping and singing up a storm. Conway gave us a secure, intelligent, and utterly confident Brooke who left no doubts as to exactly how she had built her fitness empire. Every time she was onstage, Conway brought with her a flood of energy that lifted the production, and pushed it forward.
Lachlan Clark flexed his comedic muscles (and a few other muscles besides) as delivery man Kyle B O’Boyle. Owning the stage confidently every time he struts on, his comedic timing is wonderful, and Clark makes the brief onstage interactions warm, and utterly charming. The most effective part of his performance is the willingness to hold onto the silence and the tension, letting the moments build and holding the pause expertly.
With a large, but extremely hard working and deserving chorus it can be to single out spectacular moments that rise above, but there are a few delightful morsels worth mentioning, Firstly Simon Ah-Him’s Winthrop is a delight in the first half of the show, and I genuinely wish there was more opportunity for his character to be explored throughout the show. Darcy Rhodes excels at all of his characters, but his turns as both Elle’s father, and a Harvard foreign exchange student are show stoppingly on point. Finally, and by no means least of all, Sunny Jegamohan as Nikos Argitakos is splendid. Jegamohan takes the small part and makes a charming, high energy, feast of it.
With it’s fun, stick-in-your-head score, and a sound message about finding and embracing the person you are regardless of what others may think of you, Legally Blonde manages to find a chord to strike in anyone’s heart, no matter your age, or how jaded you may be. The production continues to push the envelope for the team at Queensland Musical Theatre, and I look forward to seeing what they can do with their 2019 season.