BWW Review: LEGALLY BLONDE THE MUSICAL at Chapel Off Chapel
James Terry Collective's presentation of Legally Blonde The Musical showcases an exceptionally talented leading lady and provides a fun night out at the theatre that will leave you perky, positive and obsessed with the colour pink.
James Terry Collective is a fantastic initiative that has been set up to allow people working within the creative industry to have part-time work opportunities between longer commercial contracts . The company describes itself as "striving to produce works that have relevant and relatable themes to a modern audience to provoke thought, change, and inspiration." Legally Blonde The Musical certainly fits into this definition.
The musical is based on the novel by Amanda Brown and the well known 2001 film starring Reese Witherspoon. Premiering on Broadway in 2007 with music and lyrics by Nell Benjamin and Laurence O'Keefe and a book by Heather Hach, it was directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell. The musical received mixed feedback on Broadway and while getting seven Tony nominations, unfortunately did not win any. It has however collected over the years a cult following of musical theatre enthusiasts, thanks mainly to the MTV recording of the original Broadway production. This filming allowed a much broader audience to appreciate the energetic enthusiasm the show creates.
Transforming Legally Blonde The Musical from a full scale Broadway spectacle to a much more intimate setting at Chapel Off Chapel is not an easy task. The book, music and lyrics demand constant spectacular set and costume changes, creating a challenge for this version of the Show's creatives to deliver within the constraints of independent theatre.
Thankfully the task is achieved well through the versatile pink set design of Dave Angelico and fantastic costuming by Jacinda Hill. These are supported by an excellent lighting design from Jason Bovaird at Moving Light Productions, which features the largest lighting rig ever used at Chapel off Chapel.
Green Room Award winning Michael Ralph's direction and choreography is fresh and modern, helping to make the show more relevant for a 2019 audience. His updated staging of musical numbers like "What You Want" and "Legally Blonde Remix" work extraordinarily well in such an intimate setting. Katie Weston's dazzling musical direction ensures that the challenging pop score and lyrics are clean and articulate. The sound design by Marcello Lo Ricco from LSS Productions blends onstage vocals well with the largest pop orchestra at Chapel off Chapel to date.
Evan Lever is great as Emmett Forrest. He brings a natural authenticity to the role and provides great vocals. Tod Strike as Professor Callahan, Lala Barlow as Vivienne Kensington, Jordan Barr as Enid Hoopes and Adam Perryman as Kyle all provide memorable performances, although unfortunately Willow Sizer's interpretation of Paulette seems to get lost in translation.
Samm Hagen as Elle Woods is absolutely phenomenal. Her powerful voice is a dream to listen to and she carries the entire show with perfect ease, despite the role been arguably one of the most demanding in musical theatre. While this role has been made iconic on screen by Reese Witherspoon and then equally onstage by Laura Bell Bundy, Hagen successfully makes Elle her own. Everytime she makes an entrance she looks stunning and grabs the audience's attention. By the end of the performance we are ready to crown her as one of Australia's best leading ladies. It is worth coming to Legally Blonde The Musical just to see Hagen's sensational performance.