BWW Review: LEGALLY BLONDE THE MUSICAL is a Bright Testimony to the Power of Women and Importance of Self-Love
There's never been a shortage of movies-turned-stage musicals, but where many achieve to go beyond their inspirations, LEGALLY BLONDE THE MUSICAL is a show that stays true to what makes the cult-classic film so beloved - and in doing so, is just as relevant and timely in 2020 as the movie was in 2001.
The Hart House production, directed by Saccha Dennis, lives up to the empowering feel-goodness of its source material. LEGALLY BLONDE tells the story of Elle Woods (Emma Sangalli), an intelligent young woman and a stereotypical 'blonde' with plenty of brains hidden under layers of designer bags and pink dresses - who follows her ex-boyfriend Warner (John Carr-Cook) to Harvard Law school to prove that she can be serious enough for him. Along the way, she struggles to fit in with her snobby classmates including Warner's new girlfriend Vivienne (Autumn Joy-Dames), finds friends in her Law 101 TA Emmett (Ethan Vasquez-Taylor) and local hairdresser Paulette (Moulan Bourke), and works her way through the imposing, critical legal industry while upholding her trademark positive nature.
Sangalli is a powerhouse as the iconic lead character, whose film counterpart is still relevant and revered today. She's got a strong voice and delivers some beautifully heartbreaking moments among the pep and pizzazz of Elle Woods' infectious personality. Vasquez-Taylor is endlessly sweet as the straightforward voice-of-reason Emmett, while Carr-Cook counters as the jerky ex-boyfriend with a perfect balance of faux-charm and smarminess. Bourke is a hilarious scene-stealer, whether she's bending and snapping or rolling around her salon on a wheeled chair, and another huge chunk of the show's comedy and Elle's support system comes in the form of a Greek chorus comprised of Elle's sorority sisters Margot (Paige Foskett), Serena (Émilie Macaulay) and Pilar (Tama Martin).
There were a few line fumbles in the opening night performance, and it seems like there were one or two moments where technical cues didn't completely land - however, they were minor and will surely be worked out as the show settles into its run. The staging (set design by Holly Meyer-Dymny) features the grand staircase of the sorority house looming over the otherwise minimal set, and while it's used a few times after Elle leaves for Harvard, it serves as an unused backdrop for most of the show. Large units that look like books roll into position and open to reveal different places in Elle's world, and are a nice touch that tie into the story, while costumes (Kathleen Black) scream 90s nostalgia in all the right ways.
LEGALLY BLONDE is a straightforward feel-good story with packed to the brim with catchy numbers and demanding choreography (Gregory Carruthers). There might be clichés, but it never feels forced or leans too heavily on making a point against sexism and stereotypes - rather, its the story of a girl who works hard and comes out on top, all while remaining true to herself. It's a simple yet important reminder for women in a world where it seems like the main narrative girls grow up with is that they need to be someone else to succeed in their careers, or to find love. Something that runs that deep in how our world functions can't be resolved by a two-and-a-half-hour musical, but hey, it's a start that'll load you up with endorphins. And endorphins make you happy.
And leaving a show happier than you were coming in is a wonderful thing.
Hart House Theatre's LEGALLY BLONDE THE MUSICAL runs through February 1 at Hart House Theatre, 7 Hart House Cir, Toronto, ON.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit https://harthouse.ca/theatre/show/legally-blonde-the-musical
Photo credit: Scott Gorman