THE first big song in Legally Blonde – The Musical, is Omigod, and it’s reprised repeatedly throughout the show. I found myself wondering how America, with its massive Bible Belt, had reacted. A quick read of Wikipedia showed that the musical version of the book-turned-smash-hit-film had been less than successful on the other side of the pond.
But here in England, the fans had loved the show, garlanded it with awards and continue to watch it. Now it’s on the amateur circuit, that popularity will increase.
And from the Yeovil Amateur Operatic Society production, on stage at the Octagon until Saturday 15th October, it’s very easy to see why. Jeremy Tustin’s production brings out all the charm, and he is brilliantly served by an energetic young cast. All you need to do is to disconnect your critical faculties and go along with it, infuriatingly clichéd and caricatured though most of it is.
The story, in case you have missed it since the film came out 21 years ago, is of Elle Woods from Malibu, most popular girl in the school and sorority president. She’s sporty, beautiful and thinks she’s about to be affianced to her long-term boyfriend Warner. But instead of proposing, Warner says she’s not serious enough to suit his Senatorial ambitions, and he ditches her.
After 12 days mourning she picks herself up, dusts herself off and determines to follow him to Harvard Law School. Evidently she’s no dumb blonde, as she rapidly crams enough knowledge to get the grades, and then charms her way into the prestigious university by telling the admissions committee she is here for love(?) Then, inevitably, we get the “triumph through adversity, feelgood, be your best self, tell your truth, find a friend with a passion for Ireland, meet a nice boy, recognise Warner for the shit he is” stuff before the big number happy ending.
This is a show that depends on technicolor emotion and Disneyfied expectations … and enormous talent, commitment and energy. Everyone needs to play their roles like they mean it, and this cast is spectacularly successful. The baddies are really nasty, the goodies strong with hearts of gold, the comedians well-timed and the dancers slick.
It IS an ensemble piece, but of course the star is Elle, played here by Louise Cannon, a teacher of dance and music theatre at Wells Cathedral School. She’s the glue that holds the whole thing together – and she couldn’t be better at it. The other stars are Khaleesi and Igor, playing the AAAAH roles of Bruiser and Igor. Never share a stage with an animal, they say, and you now know why.
On the two-legged spectrum, Jennifer Holland-Brewer is a wonderful Paulette, matched by Octagon director Adam Burgan’s hilarious APS man (job for the rebuilding period, hey, Adam?). Harrison Waterhouse is the obnoxious Warner and Edward Creswick the creepy professor, with Carl Holdway-Bradley as the loveable Emmett. And all of them depend on the chorus and supporting cast, as well as the excellent band.
It’s fun, it’s lively and you’ll leave the theatre smiling, even if you wonder why.