Large audiences packed Crown Theatre for the bubbly premiere of an all-local production of Legally Blonde the Musical, says Erin Hutchinson.
Legally Blonde the Musical, HAMA Productions ·
Crown Theatre, 16 April 2021 ·
With Perth theatres now at 100% capacity, the pink, glitter-adorned crowd at Crown Theatre was buzzing with excitement for the opening night of Legally Blonde the Musical. It was an amazing turnout (even competing with the footy) for the entirely Western Australian production by HAMA Productions, and the joy was palpable, as it should be for such an upbeat, fun piece.
Elle Woods, vibrant president of the Delta Nu Sorority House, is expecting a proposal from her beau, Warner Huntington III, and is devastated when he breaks up with her instead, claiming he needs a ‘Jackie’ not a ‘Marilyn’. In a plan to get him back, she successfully applies to join him at Harvard Law School, and her journey of self-discovery begins.
I have to admit to being a huge fan of the original 2001 film, but not so much of the 2007 musical adaptation by Heather Hach (music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin). It loses the depth of character and early-noughties feminist ideas, although it does still contain an uplifting message for young women with the bonus of some catchy, entertaining song and dance numbers.
The set pieces used in this production were striking in scale and beautiful in design, although some did tend to unofficially emulate the original Broadway and West End productions, as did much of John O’Hara’s direction and Daniella Papa’s choreography. There were a few updated pop culture references which drew a laugh, but the main difference was the use of large LED projections to indicate setting or add pizzazz. The problem with this is it ends up looking very “dance school”, and the rear of the stage is neglected except for the big numbers. Many of the scenes took place in the front third of the large stage space Crown Theatre has to offer, and scene changes became clunky.
However, the bigger numbers were impressive, particularly Elle’s Harvard entry presentation segment in “What You Want”, the high energy skipping workout “Whipped Into Shape”, the problematic but oh-so-amusing “Bend and Snap”, and the courtroom scenes. These larger numbers sounded exciting too, thanks to musical direction by Katherine John and orchestral direction by Marty Pervan. Unfortunately, from where I was sitting, the sound and microphone balance was poor, so text in smaller numbers and solos was missed at times.
There is a plethora of talent based in and exported from WA, and it’s nice to see HAMA Productions bring experienced artists back into the state to work with some of our up and coming performers. Elaina O’Connor and Lloyd Hopkins return to the roles they played in HAMA Production’s 2018 production at the Regal Theatre and are a picture-perfect Elle Woods and likable Emmett Forrest. Greg Jarema is a handsome Warner Huntington III, and Charlotte Louise as Vivienne shone towards the end of Act Two. Annie Aitken sung like a star, but was much too sexy and poised for her role of Paulette Buonofonté, and Vincent Hooper, reprising his role as UPS man Kyle, stole a good moment or two strutting his packages across the stage. The real stars according to audience response though, were the two pooches Bentley and Phoebe, as Bruiser and Rufus.
At a time when much of the rest of the world’s theatres still dream of large-scale musicals returning to their stages, watching this cast strut their stuff is a fun way to pass the evening, and fans of the show will especially enjoy this bubbly production.
Pictured top: Elaina O’Connor as Elle Woods leads the dancing line in ‘Legally Blonde the Musical’. Photo supplied
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