Let yourself be entertained with Legally Blonde – The Musical, playing at Toronto’s Randolph Theatre
While I wasn’t expecting a night of supreme intellectual theatre going into the Randolph Academy’s production of Legally Blonde: The Musical, I also wasn’t expecting the off-the-chart level of energy and severe explosion of talent on stage on opening night.
I feel like this show might initially appeal to folks who’ve seen and enjoyed the film version (starring Reese Witherspoon), or folks who enjoy musicals. But even if you’re one of those ‘high-brow’ sort of theatre-goers, I’d still implore you to give this one a go, if only to see some rather spectacular choreography and some young actors who will probably make quite a dent somewhere in the biz in the future.
The show follows the plot of the film directly, with only a few straying moments. Elle Woods, a California girl with a bright pink and bubbly personality, gets shafted by Warner, her boyfriend of a few years. Why? Because he’s headed off to Harvard and is looking for something more “serious”. Elle is devastated, but finally decides to go to Harvard herself in order to prove she’s serious enough to win back his favour. In the process, she makes some big self-discoveries, some lifelong pals and proves that blondes can have just as much intellectual fun as the next hipster Law student.
With a catchy libretto, I don’t think this production could function without a full commitment from its cast. If the energy drifts even the slightest into the lower registers, the pacing is at risk of dragging a little. The graduating class of the Randolph Academy do a grand job at maintaining the enthusiasm, though there were still some slow moments. I’d chalk this one up to opening night jitters.
I think one of the most commendable things about the show is the huge female cast required, including the lead. Claire Hunter, who played Elle on opening night (the show is double cast), basically carried the show on her shoulders. I think there’s a danger, when performing a show based on a film or larger Broadway production, for actors to try and emulate their onscreen counterparts. Hunter doesn’t go this route, but makes the role entirely her own. Hunter’s Elle is equal parts fluffy fun and quippy cleverness.
Other stand outs for me were the ruthless Callahan, played by Isaac Bell, who employed a very subtle form of sleaziness and a gorgeously silky tone to his ‘Blood in the Water’ solo. Justine Lewis’s Paulette was also endearingly loud and hilarious. She has great expression and I commend her for being able to lift the weight of Morty, Paulette’s rotund and loveable bulldog –yes, this production uses live animals on stage which my friend Elana fell head over heels for.
Jason Franco’s choreography is actually some of the most exciting I’ve seen in a production, let alone one from a theatre school. There’s one number in the show that involves jump rope that had my jaw on the floor the entire time. Of course it helped to have Katie Brogan (playing the fitness guru Brooke Wyndham) executing the number flawlessly. Honestly, the girl is incredible being able to sing and jump rope and dance, all without breaking much of a sweat or sounding out of breath. I’d also like to mention Jody-Anne Whitfield as one of Elle’s best friend’s Serena, who displayed great dancing as well. I found my eyes would gravitate her way throughout most of the ensemble dance numbers.
The show doesn’t go without its weaker points which, almost ironically, I found to gravitate around the male leads. Evan Spergel’s Warner was lacking some sincerity, although Spergel’s voice is definitely lovely to listen to. Thomas Puttman’s Emmett took until the second act to really warm up to me, although I feel like it was a mix of opening night and some technical hitches with his mic that might have attributed to that.
Again, I think this show is worth seeing if only for the talented cast, although it is a really fun production. Not for the stuffy, but for those who aren’t afraid to be entertained.
- Legally Blonde: The Musical is playing at the Randolph Theatre (736 Bathurst St.)
- Performances are August 3 at 2pm and 8pm, August 8-9 at 8pm, August 10 at 2pm and 8pm
- Ticket prices are $22.
- Tickets are available online or in person at the box office