With audience members encouraged to live tweet messages of good luck and selfies from the audience utilising #legallyplos, and The Selfie Company sending photos from the foyer to screens on stage, as you enter the theatre there’s no denying you are stepping into the Sorority Sister world of Legally Blonde. From the outset you know you are in for a modern musical treat that is exciting, energetic, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. But as if you weren’t fully aware of that when you bought a ticket to the musical about the Malibu blonde sorority sister who decides to follow her heart to Harvard Law School to win back her man and prove that she’s ‘serious’.
While PLOS are a company who keep up with the times and encourage the use of social media to promote their show, they haven’t completely thrown away the musical theatre etiquette rule book and there is no tweeting, Snapchatting, Facebooking, Instagramming, or trying to make ‘fetch’ happen allowed during the show.
Legally Blonde can so easily become ‘The Elle Woods Show’ but this isn’t the case for PLOS’ production as Elle Woods (Tayla Thomas) shares the show and the stage rather than stealing it. This is due to the talent of Thomas in the lead role, along with solid direction from Danny Ginsberg. The character of Elle Woods can often be a bit ‘too much’ for audiences to handle for the duration of the show, and the sickly sweet preppy blonde act can become annoying, but Thomas does an exceptional job of finding the perfect balance and is incredibly likeable in the role. As this is Thomas’ first lead role in a musical she deserves ‘snaps’ for taking on what is fast becoming an iconic female lead role.
Emmett Forest (Daragh Wills) is an unlikely romantic interest who manages to capture Elle’s heart (and the heart of the audience) with a humble yet humorous performance. Warner Huntington III (James Terry) is smarmy, slick, and very Scott Disick.
I don’t even know what to say about Elise Stevens as Paulette Bonafonte. She is a scene stealer and absolute crowd favourite. Paulette is such a great role and what Stevens does with it is fantastic. She is laugh until you cry hilarious, can belt a tune, and Irish dances like you’ve never seen before.
There are so many great characters in Legally Blonde, and many talented performances from the cast it would be impossible to mention them all, but ‘mad props’ to Enid Hoopes (Ashlee Robertson) who made me mad that Enid wasn’t a bigger role, and Professor Callahan (Mario Mohorko) who has a voice which reminds me of Norbert Leo Butz (who incidentally would probably make a great Carl Hanratty now the rights for Catch Me If You Can are available…)
Mike Fletcher’s set is created through a mashup of hanging screens, physical set pieces, and clever use of projections. Brad Alcock’s lighting design complements the set, and expertly worked around not disrupting or distracting from the projections. The lighting at the beginning of “Take It Like A Man” in the Hansen-Harkness Department Store is outstanding. Keep an eye out for it. The hanging screens are also used to stream live footage from cameras and phones onstage which adds to the very ‘now’ feel of the show. Screens on either side of stage are cleverly manipulated during scene changes and show text messages from characters regarding what is happening at that point in time. It is a great distraction from the scene changes occurring as you try to read them all before the scene begins. Clearly a lot of time and effort has gone in to the work behind the scenes with the technical elements of the show. Great job by Andrei Chlebnikowski, Paul Congdon and Mike Fletcher. There were a few tech issues and some untidy scene changes, but I’ll put it down to Opening Night mistakes, as there are a lot of elements involved in this show and overall the production ran very smoothly.
Costumes, makeup, and hair were appropriate for the show and suited the characters and the time. Nice to see the Greek Chorus Delta Nu’s retain the same costumes and hairstyles as their ‘real’ character counterparts only all in white. There are a few ‘on stage’ quick changes which occur throughout the show which all happened without an issue thanks to Brett Wingfield and his team.
The novelty of hashtags and OMGs may wear off over time for older audience members, but the younger core audience at which the show is obviously aimed should love it. The added ability of being able to interact with the production via social media is also appealing for younger musical theatre fans.
The production team of director Danny Ginsberg, musical director Martine Wengrow, and choreographer Karen Pottinger all worked together to create a production which reflects the character of Elle Woods herself. PLOS’ Legally Blonde is energetic, stylish, upbeat, full of spirit, and infectious (in a good way). Oh, and yes, there are cute dogs on stage too. I rest my case.