Last week, the University of Manchester Musical Theatre Society (UMMTS) brought the musical adaptation of the Reese Witherspoon classic, Legally Blonde to the stage. The production was directed by Scarlett Gorman and produced by Ella Marsden. And, featuring a 30-strong cast, live band, and pink EVERYTHING, it was destined to be a success in my eyes.
Legally Blonde tells the story of Malibu socialite, Elle Woods as she follows her ex-boyfriend, Warner Huntington III across the country to Harvard Law School in an effort to win him back. UMMTS set the scene well, creating a pink paradise with women’s magazines plastered across the walls, Barbie-pink furniture and ‘Elle Woods’ scrawled across the door with fairy lights.
Speaking of Elle, Kathryn O’Neill was faultless in the role. From her vocals to her mannerisms, hair and costume, she was perfect and gave a performance on par with that of the actress in the UK tour I watched a few years ago. Other outstanding performances include George Haviland as Professor Callahan and Carol-Ann McConnellogue as Paulette Bonafonte. McConnellogue provided my highlight of the whole evening with her rendition of ‘Ireland’, which had every member of the audience in stitches. The live band, directed by Francesca Peilober-Richardson, accompanied the performances perfectly.
Ellie Kouda and Morven Lawrie’s choreography must also be commended. It was sharp and powerful, with plenty of nods to the original Broadway production. Particularly impressive was ‘Whipped into Shape’, a workout video-style number with skipping ropes that defied the limited space of the SU’s Council Chambers.
Admittedly, no live production is immune from a few difficulties. Throughout the performance, there were a few lapses in accent, a somewhat odd sound issue arose during ‘Legally Blonde’ and the small space sometimes felt a little crowded and hectic, particularly during full-cast dance routines. The pitch of some male vocals also needed to be lowered, although it must be noted that the music Legally Blonde presents is rather challenging. However, such issues were minor compared to what was overall a great production.
As a musical, Legally Blonde is fun and frivolous, hilarious and heart-warming, and UMMTS’ production did the show, and the iconic Elle Woods, justice. N.B. Can all textbooks be returned to the university library ASAP? Law students of UoM are starting to panic!