Theatre Review: Legally Blonde: The Musical
By Brianne Hogan
(Image: Seanna Kennedy)
When Madonna coined the term “Blond Ambition” back in the early ’90s, it stood for boldness, unconventionality and staying true to oneself. Little did the Queen of Pop know that her term would perfectly describe the story of another blonde, Elle Woods, a pink-obsessed sorority sister who manages to snag herself a spot at the prestigious Harvard Law School in the hopes of getting back together with her ex-boyfriend. OMG, indeed.
Now playing at the Lower Ossington Theatre, Legally Blonde: The Musical joins the ever-growing list of musicals based on movies (Dirty Dancing and Spiderman are just two of the most recent offerings). This raises the question: are these musicals that hitch a ride on already successful movies even necessary?
In the case of Legally Blonde, the answer is: not really, but it sure is fun anyway.
For those who haven’t seen the 2001 film that propelled Reese Witherspoon to stardom, the story is simple: the aptly-named Elle (Anna Hurshman), a fashion student at UCLA, is dumped by her Harvard-bound boyfriend, Warner (Jeff Hookings) for being, well, blonde (he says she’s a “Marilyn” when he ought to have a “Jackie”). Distraught, Elle is determined to follow him to the famous law school and get him back (you know, because that’s usually a good idea that doesn’t end up backfiring). She’s accepted into Harvard Law herself and though she is initially cold-shouldered by her fellow Ivy Leaguers, who are shell-shocked by her bubblegum-pink outfits and bubbly personality, Elle eventually hits her stride when she wins a murder case and proves that she isn’t just another dumb blonde.
There are a few minor differences between the movie and the stage show: Elle’s video essay is replaced by the song-and-dance number “What You Want,” which makes sense but is disappointing since that was a great moment in the film; her new friend Paulette (Heidi Thomas) is a hairdesser not a manicurist and also has a new, rather weird, obsession with Ireland; and Elle’s faithful Delta Nu sorority sisters make cheerful appearances as her own kind of Greek chorus.
The stage show works because it doesn’t take itself seriously. It knows it’s sugar and spice and everything nice and celebrates that with effervescence and sparkling wit. Though some of the songs are forgettable, there are others, like “Ohmigod You Guys,” that have been on repeat in my head since I left the theatre.
Hurshman is a perfect fit for the role of Elle. Not only is she the spitting image of Witherspoon in both looks and charisma, but her singing voice is beautiful and she hits all the right notes in both the musical and acting moments of the show. The positioning of Hurshman’s mic on her forehead is distracting at times, but with all her costume changes, I understand the reason for its odd placement.
The rest of the company are all exceptionally talented, not to mention remarkably perky, and Thomas is a notable standout in her role of Paulette (as is her UPS beau, played by Trevor Williams, if only for his Greek god-like body and Celtic dancing skills).
My biggest complaint is the minimal and, frankly, ugly set. Having to stand in for numerous locations is a challenge, but after seeing the amazing set from the Lower Ossington Theatre’s previous production of Avenue Q, Michael Galloro’s stage looked like the set of a high-school production that had been created in shop class.
Blondes have more fun, or so the saying goes, but whatever your hair colour happens to be, you’re sure to enjoy this fun and frothy offering from the Lower Ossington Theatre’s awesomely creative team.
Legally Blonde: The Musical, The Lower Ossington Theatre, 100A Ossington Ave., 416-915-6747. To March 31.