PLOS’s Legally Blonde, which opens at the Frankston Arts Centre on the 24th of July, puts a modern and unique twist on this very popular show. Tayla Thomas (Elle Woods), Ashlee Robertson (Enid Hoopes), Elise Stevens (Paulette Bonafonte), Taylor Sansom (Serena) and Emily Hall (Vivienne Kensington), spoke to Theatre People about how much more there is to the show than its pink façade, the thrill of playing characters they know and love, and the opportunity to bring a text to the stage that represents women and their friendships in such a complex way.
Many of the cast members were introduced to the story through the classic Reese Witherspoon film, and some have been obsessed with the musical cast recording since its release in 2007. Ashlee Robertson has had fond memories of the show from way back. “I have been listening to Legally Blonde ever since it first came out, I used to play it in my car with a mate of mine, and I’ve pretty much been obsessed with it since I heard it.”
Legally Blonde is a show with something for everyone, with each of the cast thoroughly enjoying a different aspect. Taylor Sansom is looking forward to doing her best ‘Bend and Snap’, while Ashlee Robertson is enthusiastic to perform ‘Gay or European’. Emily Hall is just eager to show the audience how much the hard work of many rehearsals is paying off. “I don’t really have one favourite element, I would say, I think it’s just the whole show, we’ve been rehearsing for so long, and I would have been happy to put on the show a month ago. We’ve just had so much time to polish and refine things I think we’re all just excited to get out there and show everyone what we’ve done!”
Aside from the fun, what has made the show so widely performed and well-loved in the short amount of time it’s been around? “It’s got everything going for it, it’s fast paced, which I think is really important in musical theatre; so you don’t lose the crowd. But it’s also got beautiful, tender moments in the show and the characters get to go on a real journey, and help each other – especially the women in the show. I think the movie is very funny, but the musical just takes it to a whole other level,” Elise Stevens tells us.
“I think that while it’s light and fluffy, and you walk away with that ‘feel good’ feeling, there are some deeper set messages in there. I think it’s important to note that feminism is a huge part of it.” Thomas reasons that the musical “shows how Elle Woods can become an accomplished law student even though she is a blonde sorority girl. She can still have those career opportunities, she take hold of her own future and I think that’s a really good message to all women out there.”
Behind the show’s bright, flashy exterior lies some heart-warming messages about the many female characters in the show. Emily Hall explains that, “There’s definitely strength and power in all the female roles. There are a lot of stereotypes with people being judged on the way they look rather than what they are capable of, and I think that goes with Vivienne’s character as well. It’s really great to see the character’s change in Act II, which is all about the girl power of the show and everyone uniting, and everyone sticking up for each other; which I think girls are really great at doing as well.”
The way that different characters band together to get through tough situations is highlighted throughout the show within Paulette and Elle’s relationship. Elise Stevens says of this dynamic, ‘Elle and Paulette both start off the show different people, and end up, through their friendship, helping each other grow and blossom into these brilliant successful women. You get to see also a change in Vivienne’s character along the way.”
PLOS’ brilliant understanding of the complex dynamics of the show aren’t the only thing that give their production an edge, we are told by the cast. “By setting the show today, in 2015, it’s making it a little bit different, and some of the references are a little bit different (…) I think by PLOS putting their own spin on it, it’s sort of making it fresh and new.” Emily Hall believes that by slightly re-contextalising the text, many new opportunities have opened up and can be explored by both the actors and creative team. Sansom agrees. “There are quite a lot of (amateur) companies that have done Legally Blonde, so I think the way that we’ve done it is so different, it’s so contemporary. Because of this, we have more freedom to play with the characters.”
With opening night racing excitingly closer, the leading ladies of Legally Blonde want the audience to take away so much more than just a fond memory of the performance. Thomas voices this by saying, “I want them (our audiences) to take away a smile, and a lot of good memories, but I also want them to take away a lot of the messages that are weaved throughout the show. I think there’s a lot of heart and a lot of meaning there, that people need to take with them. They’ll walk away thinking not just ‘wow, this was a wonderful show’, but also, ‘I can learn things from this.’” But that’s not to say you won’t be enthralled, explains Emily Hall. ‘I think this show is just a wonderful escape and it’s just a really enjoyable show, it doesn’t drag and there’s a lot of memorable songs. I think it would be great to have the audience at the end, standing up, cheering and in the mood to dance.”
Tickets to Legally Blonde can be purchased at this link.