Warner Huntington III:
You know when you are the director of a musical theatre group, right? And the worst thing you can imagine happens, right? Well, like OMG it happened! The leading lady had a riding accident on Friday afternoon and was in hospital, like miles away, still being treated as the curtain went up to a full house. Really: Omigod You Guys!
I can only imagine the stress and flowery language amongst Director and Choreographer Ryan Hughes, Musical Director Joe Church, Producer Abi Holmes and Exec Producer Claudia Pepler as they heard the news that poor Leonie Macaslin who had, all week been playing the Legal Blonde, Elle Woods of the title, would not be available: The cast of thirty four, the band of eleven and the production team of twenty-two had worked their proverbial socks off for months and there was a sell-out audience to consider. Enter Co-Choreographer and all-round heroine-of-the-moment (and amazingly, a natural blonde!) Amy Morgan-Bell. With literally hours to prepare, Amy stood up to stand-in as Elle so, in the time-honoured tradition, the show would go on.
Legally Blonde could not be accused of being a serious, intellectual show that induces much chin-stroking and deep contemplation. It is, rather a piece of glorious escapism as an apparently ditzy Californian ‘air-head’ blonde is ditched by the love of her life who considers her to be lacking in sufficient seriousness to support his move to Harvard Law school. She emerges as no mere ‘blonde bombshell’, achieves her own place at Harvard and through remaining consistently true to her own morals wins the day. However, the show should not be dismissed entirely as ‘froth’ – class and gender issues are examined and there is great wit throughout. I am a self-confessed ‘grumpy-old-git’ and I am a big fan.
The task for the Merlin company would be to fit a big, sparkly show into a relatively small space and to impart sufficient energy and punch to give the show the impact it deserves. In most-part this was achieved though clearly the last-moment change of lead did (inevitably) have an effect.
Technical: The set design was reasonably simple – ‘feature’ items like the short stairway to Elle’s door, doubling as a large mirror were neatly constructed and well handled by the stage crew in quick, well-choreographed, quiet transitions. Stage manager Robin Ainslie-King and team should be pleased with the effect of keeping the action flowing. Lighting was a series of straightforward plots – doing exactly as it should and allowing the audience to be directed to focus on the required area of the stage and to be able to see the action: Matthew Tipper delivering the goods. Sound was clear and audibility good- vital for a show with such witty lyrical content. Microphone-cuing however was very disappointing, missing many cues. I assume that the changes caused by a stand-in lead had effected things or was the operator simply having a ‘mare’? Costume worked very well: the overall look was splendid, bright believable and easy on the eye.
Performances: The Ensemble – Jacs, Phoebe, Ryan, Clare, Chloe, Ben, Daisy, Dave, George, Jodie, Emma, Keigan, Kate, Cordelia and Pete (superbly supported by Lola and Winnie as Brusier Woods and Roofus Bonafonte) had clearly worked extremely hard on this show – dance was terrific, energy undeniable and singing strong – a good job done.
The Delta Nu Girls: Roberta Partington as Gaelen, Becky Mould as Kate, Alicia Pearce as Leilani, Jaimi Bartlett as Brandi, Georgina Payne as Sugar and Chloë Plaxton as Amber brought a bright, breezy good humour to proceedings – funny, well-timed and musically strong, they should be proud of their work. They all stepped up to help guide and support Amy as Elle, occasionally guiding her around the stage and generally looking after her (not easy when you have your own performance to manage too!). Well done.
The Principals: Steve Waterford as Emmett, Lisa Brown as Paulette, Rosa Watson as Serena, Abi Holmes as Margot, Chloë Preston as Pilar, Ed Henderson as Warner, Gary Robson as Callaghan, Zoë Davis as Brooke, Tabitha Cox as Vivienne and Laura Drake as Enid worked with great energy, enthusiasm and no little talent. Singing and dance were good, pace and cue-bite admirable. Good work all.
There were a couple of stand-out performances for me: I enjoyed Gary Robson’s hard-assed lawyer Callaghan very much – believable and fun-to-despise, his ‘look’ was on-point and singing was great. However it was Lisa Brown’s Paulette Bonaforte who stole the show. The sassy, funny hairdresser is a fantastic character part that Lisa fully inhabited. Her comic timing, movement, accent, energy and singing were simply superb. I am still singing ‘Ireland’.
Huge plaudits (and a well-deserved standing ovation on Friday night) must go to Amy Morgan-Bell (Amy Maughan) for her bravery, heart and no little talent as she played Elle. Really well done.
Was the show the smoothest and tidiest I have ever seen? It does not matter one iota! It was a privilege to watch an entire company pulling together to deliver a full show. The audience absolutely loved it and we were royally entertained. This was what being a true company is all about.
Thank you all for working so hard.
Thank you for inviting me
Moderation by Ian Hurdman