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BWW Review: LEGALLY BLONDE at Crown Theatre

This proudly WA based production is in Perth for a limited season.

BWW Review: LEGALLY BLONDE at Crown Theatre

This production of LEGALLY BLONDE is proudly Western Australian, and features a cast and crew overwhelmingly based in or originating from WA. It is no surprise, therefore, to see that the crowd gave a great deal of support to the performers, with a large portion likely family and friends. However, that certainly doesn't fully account for the enthusiastic crowd and the energetic performers turning it on to paint Perth pink. Whilst drawing principally from Perth may be a thing of necessity right now the performance lost nothing, and in fact seemed better for it.

The cast is superbly led by Elaina O'Connor as Elle Woods. The role of Elle is particularly demanding, as this is one of the few shows where the lead character is in every scene and every song. There are also several costume changes throughout the show, so Elaina had to either change just off stage and then immediately get back on or change literally on stage. It's a tough role to perform and yet O'Connor hit every mark and performed the last song with the same energy and enthusiasm as the first, not to mention the many dance numbers she appears in. Elaina said that she thinks that everyone needs "A little bit of Elle in your life," and her performance conveys that. The role genuinely seems to fit her well.

The same can be said for Emmett (played by Lloyd Hopkins). Both O'Connor and Hopkins said they see themselves in their characters (read more in my interview with them here), and that is evident throughout the show. It is easy, therefore, to follow the characters as they evolve their emotions and personalities because the leads are playing a deeply personal role.

BWW Review: LEGALLY BLONDE at Crown Theatre
Lloyd Hopkins and Elaina O'Connor as Emmett Forrest and Elle Woods

With that being said, the show was somewhat stolen by Annie Aitken as Paulette. Aitken brings everything to the role that the character demands, and the audience somehow sympathizes with the luckless but over the top Paulette. It seems the audience's ovation for her first song 'Ireland' was only bested at the final curtain. We were drawn to cheer for her from the very start because of the way Aitken played the character. Similarly, Vincent Hooper as Kyle worked his character's limited stage time excellently. The audience loved to see him perform and we can be left in very little doubt that Hooper loved performing for the audience.

BWW Review: LEGALLY BLONDE at Crown Theatre
Annie Aitken as Paulette

Greg Jarema is one of few in the cast not born or based full-time in Perth- he moved here with his Perth based partner when it became a much better option than staying overseas- but still managed to draw the audience in with his portrayal of Warner. When he first appears in the show, he is every bit the dream boy that the opening song is about, yet as the show goes on, he loses his luster and becomes much less popular. Even that sort of deterioration is a journey of sorts, and Jarema certainly took the audience on that journey. The same can be said of Steve Simmons as Professor Callahan. Simmons is the alternate Callahan but given the "main" Callahan is director of the show John O'Hara it was no surprise to see Simmons on stage. Strangely for an accomplished singer, Simmons seemed a bit off with his singing, however he made up for it with outstanding acting. Like Warner, Callahan is first on stage as a larger than life character of almost mythic proportions, and Simmons brilliantly took the audience along as Callahan is torn down. Indeed, in the scene where Callahan shows his true colours, the audience became noticeably uncomfortable, with Simmons perfectly conveying the abuse of power and status that the audience recognizes in this day and age and that sadly far too many are familiar with.

The ensemble cast all spend a lot of time on stage, yet there appeared to be few weak points with outstanding singing, dancing, and acting. The 'Greek Chorus' of imaginary Delta Nus drove the show well and were excellent singers and dancers, however there were moments when the timing of the transitions didn't quite hit and it became harder to believe that the Greek Chorus was unseen by most characters, despite it being reiterated throughout the show. Charlotte Louise as Vivienne was a standout from the other performers, often seeming to go out of her way to drive the show's feminist/sisterhood message whilst also portraying a cold and somewhat Machiavellian Vivienne. Seasoned Perth performer Jamie Mercanti (of Slim Jim & The Phatts fame) carried Elle's dad and Dewey well in his limited stage time, being entirely believable as both an affluent dad of Elle and a trailer park deadbeat. Tahlia Loren Gibbs brought attitude and sass to the judge role however it was hard to hear her lines sometimes which caused the role to fall short, whilst Zowie Simpson as Brooke Wyndham seemed slightly flat but in a way that matched her character's persona.

The staging was somewhat minimalist, with three LED screens at the back of the stage doing a lot of the work in terms of scene making. Given this is a large show on a large stage, credit must go to director John O'Hara. There were times when the stage was fully set with around 30 performers on it, yet in the times when the stage was blank with only one or two characters on it, it felt far from empty. Similarly, Daniella Papa choreographed the large ensemble well, with a lot of high energy dance numbers with a lot of performers coming off just as well as the smaller dance numbers. Again, the performers seemed to return the energy of the crowd and these dance numbers allowed for it.

BWW Review: LEGALLY BLONDE at Crown Theatre

Overall, LEGALLY BLONDE is a well put together production that loses nothing from being heavy on Perth cast and crew. The energy and intensity shown by the performers does not drop as the show goes on, despite some roles having limited down time. The show is entirely suited to the larger stage at Crown Theatre and the cast and crew all do their bit to give the show everything it needs. It is an entertaining show that is as humorous as it is heartwarming, and that manages to drive home its true messages perfectly despite the show not being able to take itself too seriously.

LEGALLY BLONDE is at Crown Theatre until April 25th. Tickets are available through Crown Theatre and Ticketmaster.

Photo credit: HAMA Productions

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