Align Entertainment’s production of Legally Blonde The Musical is an entertaining and relatively well put together show. This production has a lot of fun moments and also sufficiently captures the deeper inspirational layer of the show. Though not as refined as other past Align productions, such as the outstanding Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Align’s rendition of Legally Blonde still manages to checkmark enough boxes to be considered a win at a community theatre level.
There certainly is some wonderful talent to be enjoyed, particularly in the performances of Ranae Miller and Jenn Suratos, as well as Nicol Spinola’s versatile choreography, and the excellent orchestra under the musical direction of Clare Wyatt.
With phenomenal singing voices that gloriously blast through the rafters, Miller and Suratos shine bright, despite playing secondary characters. Miller plays Vivienne, who is of course Elle Wood’s rival (and girlfriend of Warner Huntington), and Suratos plays the loveable salon employee, Paulette. With this performance, Miller continues to showcase her amazing talent to Vancouver audiences (she was previously seen starring in Mary Poppins at TUTS last summer, and as one of the sisters in Bring on Tomorrow Co’s Little Women over the holidays). As Vivienne, you can sense the ice water running through her veins as she stares down Elle. She also does a fantastic job with her character’s emotional/attitude shift midway through the second act.
Paulette is written to be a winning role – if you have an actress with enough charm, moxie and heart. And of course a kick-ass voice. And Suratos has all those qualities. She’s a joy to watch as the tough, but sometimes sensitive, Paulette. Her “Ireland” solo, and the classic “Bend and Snap”, are some of the most entertaining moments of the show.
As Emmett, Victor Hunter continues to impress with his versatility (he was recently seen in the Vancouver Fringe Festival’s Cry-Baby: The Musical and as Bert in Mary Poppins at TUTS). His awkward persona in interpreting the loveable and slightly geeky Emmett serves as a fantastic contrast to Stuart Barkley’s suitably confident portrayal of Warner – who is pretty to look at, but douchey and dim-witted underneath.
The very fit Laura Cowan definitely has the physique to play fitness queen Brooke. But she also delivers a thoughtful, sensitive portrayal of this character, which I’ve never seen before and I quite enjoyed. Colton Fyfe kills it at as Kyle the UPS Guy, really slaying his strut across the stage.
Also a pleasure to watch is the trio of Hannah Williams, Ali Watson and Emily Matchette as Elle’s sassy sorority sisters. The three triple threat performers keep the show moving along with their energy – which is something that is unfortunately lacking in Julia Ullrich’s portrayal of Elle. While Ullrich is a lovely singer and has some compelling moments in the second act of the show, she seems to lack the bubbly personality and spark that’s necessary for the audience to fall in love with her.
It doesn’t help that half the time you can’t see her face because her giant wig blocks it, which isn’t Ullrich’s fault. As the director of this show, I feel there are a number of choices Chad Matchette made that holds the show back and gives it an amateurish quality. One of these decisions include allowing Ullrich to wear a wig that hides her face for much of the show.
Another example of a questionable direction choice is when Elle runs onstage during her first day of Harvard and immediately exclaims how much she loves the top Enid is wearing – even though there's no way Elle could have really seen what the top looks like from her angle. In the very first scene, as the Delta Nus excitedly climb the stairs to Elle’s room to wish her good luck at her “proposal” dinner, it seems odd that they’re climbing the stairs to nowhere, since there’s no set piece to indicate Elle’s room. Their surprised reactions to Elle not being home doesn’t make sense, because by that point they’ve been standing in Elle’s room (or stairway to nowhere?) for quite a while.
It also doesn’t make sense that there’s a male prisoner in a women’s prison, or that when Paulette goes to get her dog back, she goes to a strange place offstage, as opposed to the trailer in plain site where the audience logically thinks her deadbeat ex-boyfriend lives. And it’s very bizarre how after she triumphantly gets her dog back, it looks like she decides to follow her ex-boyfriend back to wherever he’s going offstage.
However, Nicol Spinola comes through with her stellar choreography, perfectly suited to the era of the show (which takes place in the late 90’s and early 2000’s), and tackles diverse styles and themes as jump rope fitness (I might have just made up that term), Irish dance, and hip hop/street jazz from the golden days of Britney, Christina and Destiny’s Child.
The second act is a joy to watch. The silly and fun “Bend and Snap” and the clever “Gay or European” numbers are very entertaining. The rousing “Legally Blonde” number takes things to the next level, really embodying the spirit of the show, thanks to Spinola’s outstanding choreography and the cast’s talent and energy. By the graduation scene, which features the song “Find My Way”, the show has you in the palm of its hand. Its poignant message of staying true to yourself rings loud and clear in a touching and inspirational way.
While there are some noticeable flaws in the show, the cast definitely has the right attitude. It looks like everyone has a blast onstage, and for an effort like this, having fun is probably the most important thing. Performers such as Ranae Miller, Jenn Suratos, Victor Hunter and Stuart Barkley are a treat to watch and set a great example for the younger cast members in earlier stages of their careers. Performed in the beautiful Michael J Fox Theatre, Align Entertainment’s Legally Blonde makes for some fun, family-friendly entertainment.
Align Entertainment's Legally Blonde The Musical runs until February 17 at the Michael J Fox Theatre. Visit Align Entertainment's website for ticket information.