Wednesday, October 10, 2012

LEGALLY BLONDE - THE MUSICAL



Lucy Durack as Elle Woods
Photo: Jeff Busby
Music and Lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin.

Book by Heather Hach

Lyric Theatre, Sydney

4th October 2012

Reviewed by Bill Stephens


Omigod You Guys!  This show is soooooo good!  Tight as a drum, noisy as a brass band and funny as a bagful of monkeys with not a dull moment from the first notes of Kellie Dickerson’s red hot band to the final curtain which left the audience screaming for more.
Lucy Durack and Ensemble
Photo: Jeff Busby

John Frost’s stylish production of “Legally Blonde The Musical” enjoyed the sort of opening night that keeps us going to the theatre. Anyone who had doubts about Lucy Durack’s star power can forget them.  From the moment she hits the stage, which is very early in the show, she owns it.  Besides being drop dead gorgeous, Lucy positively sparkles. She sings and dances like there’s no tomorrow, she’s funny, and best of all; she can tug at your heartstrings and make you really care about Elle Woods. It’s the role she was born to play and her brilliant performance is worth walking over hot coals to see.

The storyline for this show is not particularly original. It follows the travails of Elle Woods (Lucy Durack), a rich and ditsy blonde with a passion for pink.  Elle manages to get into Harvard to study law so that she can be with her ex- boyfriend, Warner Huntington 111 (Rob Mills). Warner has ambitions to become a Senator so he ditches Elle because he doesn’t think she’s serious enough. 
Rob Mills as Warner Hunting 111 and Lucy Durack as Elle Woods
Photo: Jeff Busby

Warner fails to notice that besides being beautiful, Elle also has brains, and to everyone’s (except the audience)  surprise, she eventually succeeds at Harvard, and after sidestepping the advances of her lecherous  lecturer, Professor Callahan (Cameron Daddo)  Elle manages to win a court case involving a gym-instructor , Brooke Wyndham, (Erica Heynatz) who has been accused of murdering her husband.

The show covers familiar musical territory, being set largely on a university campus, but the script is fresh, topical and witty. The songs also, while not particularly memorable, are catchy and interestingly, the composers make clever use of a couple of operatic devices, recitative and a Greek chorus, to narrate and progress the action. David Rockwell's bright, flexible set design includes a constantly moving proscenium which continually and intriguingly changes perspective and focus, and with the aid of some clever lighting, allows the show to flow seamlessly from scene to scene.
David Harris as Emmett Forrest, Cameron Daddo as Professor Callahan, Lucy Durack as Elle Woods 
Robb Mills as Warner Huntingon 111, Ali Calder as Vivienne Kensington and ensemble.
Photo Jeff Busby

Jerry Mitchell’s slick direction never lets the show sag for a moment and his choreography is inventive and energetically danced by the company, particularly the “Whipped into Shape” number in which Erika Heynatz, in an impressive stage debut playing  the suspected murderess  Gym Instructor, Brook Wyndham, confidently leads a group of prison inmates through an intricate skipping-rope routine.
Erica Heynatz as Brooke Wyndham
Photo: Jeff Busby


The rest of the casting is equally satisfying.  David Harris brings warmth and a fine singing voice to his role as law student, Emmett Harris. Rob Mills finds exactly the right balance in his role as the swollen-headed but likeable heel, Warner Huntington 111.

Helen Dallimore is both funny and vulnerable as the trailer-trash beauty salon owner Paulette, and provides one of the highlights of the evening with her lesson in seduction “Bend and snap”. Returning to the Australian stage after a 20 year absence Cameron Daddo gives a stylish performance as the handsome sleazebag, Professor Callahan, clearly relishing his big number “Blood on the Water”.  Ali Calder impresses with her nicely judged performance as Warner’s sophisticated girlfriend, Vivienne.  Most of the ensemble play multiple roles and there are some notable cameos, especially from “I Will Survive” contestant, Mike Snell, in his short shorts, who gives a show-stealing performance as the Irish delivery-boy, Kyle.  
Helen Dallimore as Paulette and Mike Snell as Kyle
Photo: Jeff Busby

And talking of scene stealers. The show features two adorable dogs which performed their roles perfectly on opening night much to the delight of the audience.

Everything about "Legally Blonde" screams quality. It’s an entertaining feel-good show, intelligent script, catchy tunes, superbly staged and performed.   It’s one of those memorable productions where all the elements click to create a memorale theatrical experience which lifts the spirit and sends the audience out of the theatre on a high. It has “HIT” written all over it. See for yourself.

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