The biggest problem I had with Legally Blonde as a story was that I knew how it was going to end before it even began. It has nothing to do with having seen the movie eons ago; it’s just a predictable plot. Also, the script doesn’t give actors much to work with. Nearly all the characters seem to operate on a surface-only level—you’re either a ditzy girl, a suit-and-tie lawyer, or a prep school genius. None of this, though, is the fault of the performers, who are an impressive group.
The UC Follies took on Legally Blonde as a musical as of Friday, following the story of Elle Woods (Olivia Lewis), a golden-haired girl from California who spent her undergrad on the beach. When her boyfriend breaks up with her to study law at Harvard, she decides to follow him, only to find out that to pass law school at Harvard, she’ll have to buckle down and read a book or two. And she does. And she succeeds. And catches a (different, but ultimately better) man in the process.
I’m trying really hard to make this a feminist piece of theatre. And, in keeping with the UC Follies’ season theme, I suppose it is. Girl strikes out on her own, wades through a sea of stereotypes, and makes it to the top without sleeping around. In doing so, she even puts a spin on her love of pink, proving that it can be a serious colour for smart people.
There were a number of impressive performers in the cast. Special mentions go to Emmett (Tyler Cheese) for his grounded performance and great vocals, and Paulette (Victoria McEwan) for blowing the biggest character role in the play right out of the water.
The set worked well enough, providing a staircase for levels and a door for entrances and exits, but overall there was too much on-and-off of non-permanent set pieces. This leads to long blackouts between scenes and a lot of people carrying chairs, which is unfortunately exactly what it looks like. The use of the Hart House cyclorama was very effective, providing a whole palette of lighting combinations, which was highly appropriate given all the positive energy this musical pours into the world.
Right when Elle decides to start studying, Emmett cracks a joke about all the Red Bull on her desk. But Elle isn’t the only one bubbling over with energy—the whole cast really sells it right from the start and never falters. In fact, I’d even say that things pick up in Act II. Maybe everyone downs a Red Bull during the intermission. Since musicals are not my go-to when I watch live theatre, I’d forgotten how much energy it takes to do musical theatre. Not that straight theatre doesn’t, but there is a different energy required for simultaneous singing and dancing. And Legally Blonde requires a lot of choreography.
I am not a dance critic. However, I thought the choreography was a good compromise of entertaining and accessible. It didn’t require every person in the cast to be a professional dancer, but still looked good and showcased those who do have training. So if you’re looking for a pick-me-up during this stressful season of exams and final assignments, this is your show.
If you wanted something to match the somber mood you’re in after that chemistry final, you’re in the wrong place. Legally Blonde runs until Saturday, December 5.