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Sam Edwards reviews “Legally Blonde – The Musical”

Sam Edwards from Fairfax Media —

“Musical Theatre is a wonderfully complex collaborative process that is so productive that it has become a significant means of training future thespians; of teaching a range of cultural and intellectual skills; and of enabling students to make the most of the education they are offered.

When the audience is captured and then held in thrall by the intrinsic magic of singing instead of talking, dancing instead of walking, and replacing the prosaic realities with the poetics of music, it is a treasure for the cast and crew, as well as a feast for the audience. And yes, I am talking about Legally Blonde. While the distance between Gilbert and Sullivan and this contemporary light opera is galactic, the rewards are equally satisfying, with one significant exception. 21st century audiences have become accustomed to exaggerated sound levels, but there are aesthetic disadvantages in the use of high voltage electronic amplification. Our engagement with the subtle beauty of the unprocessed voice and the wonderful frequency variations which make live instrumental music so dynamic, are lost. That happened at times last night, and with a live orchestra playing like old pros, and voices with a remarkable range and individuality, the production sometimes swapped the subtle for the spectacular.

Equally, there were moments of showbiz genius. Even Mr Musical Director Carpenter earned his place with an inter alia line of jazz piano riffs worthy of an Eliane Elias or an Oscar Peterson. A knockout blow to the libidinously muscular Kyle, played with such suggestive ambiguity by Lane Tims took the collective audience breath away. Delivered by Anna Hamilton’s Paulette with a voice which cut like a carborundum saw through roofing iron and then turned to honey in the same wanton breath, the blow was superbly staged. Characters were carved with cutting clarity, like Harry Forte’s Professor Callahan hitting on Elle, or Liam Waide’s sleazy Warner’s proposals, while the exemplary support role in minor orders, as it were, was nailed by Siobhan Read’s gutsy idealist Enid, with split second timing and clarity.

The final thunderous audience accolades, however were for Macy Coffin’s Elle, the original blonde, who was so convincing as she sang her character from ditsy fashion driven blonde to case winning lawyer, and Cameron Coull, who took the dry as dust character Emmett off the shelf and turned him into a sympathetic and entertaining winner. And all the while, the cast was moving. No talking heads anywhere to be seen. This show was full of movement. The full cast frontals where choreographer Leona Robinson had the ensemble in a wonderful rhythmic interchange, to a Greek ‘chorus’ lifting the tone to somewhere between Swan Lake and the free flow of contemporary dance. She also managed a minor miracle when she had the libidinous delivery guy deliver Irish dance with such memorable foot work and leg lift. This performance appeared to offer so much enjoyment and value for cast and audience, one has to wonder why our schools have to work so hard to foster music and drama.”