Legally Blonde – an absolute confection

There’s a great line in the off-beat musical [title of show] about musicals that come from a filmic source text. “So movies make good musicals? / Well, they make musicals.”

David Harris as Emmett and Lucy Durack as Elle. Photo by Jeff Busby.

Transferring a film property to the stage is a trend fraught with commercial pandering, careless structure, and flat musicality that doesn’t really try to bolster and develop the already-known characters. They often feel plastic.

It’s wonderful then that a musical that is all about dismantling the ‘plastic’ feel of blonde good looks takes that same mentality through the entire show, because there’s nothing flat, empty or plastic about Legally Blonde. It brims over with theatrical vitality.

Based on the 2001 film of the same name, (which was directed by Australian filmmaker Robert Luketic),this UK-import musical tells the story of Elle Woods, a blonde and beautiful Malibu party-girl who follows the boyfriend who ditched her to Harvard Law School to try and win him back.

Elle has brains, and it’s her realisation that her mind is the key to unlocking the potential of her life that’s so endearing and enduring. It’s also a celebration of girls and what they can achieve. While being completely, shamlessly, fun.

[pull_left]Clever dialogue, hilarious songs, and a unified brightness that is relentlessly appealing and impossible to resist[/pull_left]

No, really, it’s ridiculously fun. There are cheerleaders, the infamous ‘bend and snap’ from the film, flamboyance, more “omigods” than you ever could have expected and there’s also a shout-out to leprechauns. It has a giant heart but it also has a fantastic sense of humor.

Legally Blonde is an absolute confection; fun and light-hearted and completely aware of its own silliness. It winks and nudges itself with clever dialogue, hilarious songs, and a unified brightness that is relentlessly appealing and impossible to resist.

Lucy Durack shines as Elle Woods, carrying the show on her shoulders with exceptional acting and an excellent sense of timing. Rob Mills is the perfect Warner: delightfully self-absorbed and clueless, and Ali Calder shines as his new ‘serious’ girlfriend Vivienne.

Erika Heynatz as Brooke. Photo by Jeff Busby

David Harris in his transformation into disheveled, driven Emmett, Elle’s mentor, is spectacular, and Helen Dallimore, similarly mouthed into brash and gaudy salon owner Paulette, is an absolute treat. Remarkable performances both.

The big surprise of the night, however, was Erika Heynatz as fitness mogul Brooke Wyndham. Her electrifying jump-rope number at the top of the second act was a choreographed marvel, and her singing voice was a revelation. Heynatz gave a clever, witty performance, and received many well-earned laughs.

There is good character work by the entire ensemble – Zoe Jarrett as Harvard girl Enid, and Elle’s best sorority friends Serena (Ashlea Pyke), Pilar (Chloe Zuel), and Margot (Renee Burleigh) in particular. And then there was Mike Snell, possibly having the most fun on stage as dreamy UPS guy Kyle. It’s this stellar group of actors that ensure the big numbers of the night burst forward with excitement, verve, and some of the most high-energy moves to hit Sydney’s stages in a long time.

During curtain call on opening night, the audience unanimously got to their feet in a standing ovation underneath a shower of pink streamers. And that’s exactly the show: an outpouring of joy and uncomplicated fun.

Cassie Tongue

Cassie is a theatre critic and arts writer in Sydney, and is the deputy editor of AussieTheatre. She has written for The Guardian, Time Out Sydney, Daily Review, and BroadwayWorld Australia. She is a voter for the Sydney Theatre Awards.

Cassie Tongue

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