Dates and Venue 8 July - 17 August 2013 | Malkin Bowl, Stanley Park
Director Valerie Easton Set Design Drew Facey Costume Design Chris Sinosich Lighting Design Gerald King Sound Design Alex Livland Musical Direction Danny Balkwill Stage Manager Yeon Kyeon Kim
Reviewer John Jane
On an evening that was just about perfect for watching live outdoor musical theatre, Theatre under the Stars opened its 2013 summer season with Legally Blonde. Ordinarily, one might expect Legally Blonde be a complete bust. With such hackneyed dialogue, a blatant feminist message, cardboard characters and a predictable “boy dumps girls, girl chases boy to Harvard” storyline, how does the show delight so many of its audiences? Well, the show is great fun and providing you can forget where you are and completely detach yourself from reality, it’s immensely enjoyable.
Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin’s songs are lively and infectious, though, with a few exceptions hardly memourable. The ensemble’s opening number,” Omigod, you Guys” is catchy and sets the tone for the rest of the show.
The lead character Elle Woods, portrayed by a charismatic Breanne Arrigo evolves from a free-spirited fashionista to a hardworking law student. Arrigo shows natural flair for physical comedy, and delivers ludicrously puerile lines without coming across as inane. Nothing Elle does is understated. She even pulls together a marching band and a bevy of cheerleaders to present her personal essay to the Harvard admittance panel.
Cathy Wilmot shines through the froth as the lovelorn Paulette who becomes Elle’s life mentor. She is truly vivacious singing the ode to the Emerald Isle “Ireland.” I would have loved to see more of Katie Murphy, who plays fitness guru Brooke. She opens the second act with “Whipped into Shape” that highlights her singing and dancing talent. Murphy looks gorgeous, but the skipping rope sequence looked like it needed more rehearsal time from other cast members.
The men get short shrift in this show. However, Scott Walters somehow manages to get noticed as the supportive Emmett. He teaches “Little Miss Woods-comma-Elle“ (and perhaps the rest of us) that if you want to succeed you’ve got to have a “Chip on your Shoulder” – one of the few songs I could remember the next day.
Pink has never been my favourite colour, but Chris Sinosich’s colourful costumes add quality to this high-octane production. Gerald King’s lighting gives an extra dimension to Valerie Easton’s sparkling choreography, but Drew Facey’s simple rolling sets owe more to economy than extravagance.
Legally Blonde cheerfully pokes fun at stereotypes, but in the context of light musical theatre, it is hardly offensive. If it’s guilty of anything, it’s being way too over-the-top, though it’s never less (or more) than a charming modern faerie-tale.
© 2013 John Jane