The show got off to a rocky start with the lead not being able to perform but to the audience’s surprise— and to my delight— a voice announced that Emily Phillips would be stepping in even though she had originally been cast as Pilar, one of the sorority girls. And fortunately, Phillips did an amazing job. Sure, she had to read her lines but she made up for it by being the prodigious singer that she is. Honestly, her performance was impressive and given how her new role was a last-minute decision, she was incredibly professional.
Olly Stanton as Emmett Forrest was endearing, convincing and his chemistry with his last-minute partner was surprisingly good— I guess two amazing performers always work well together, no matter the circumstances. He might have been the most aware of what was going on, and it felt like he was leading the way when he was on stage—or was it his natural aura that gave everyone a boost?
The true revelation for me was Milly Wicks as the pure and clueless Paulette Buonufonte, who was an impressive singer and an astounding actress. Her performances stood out, partly because they were actually audible. She reached high notes and made it look completely effortless. Her character’s love interest, the UPS delivery man played by Dorian Held, was epic. His entrance was one of the few that were a success with the sexy music and his physicality. The second great entrance was the Greek chorus’s and the last one was Thomas Rainford’s as professor Callahan. From the moment he set foot on stage he stole the show. I don’t know what it was exactly, his charisma, his impeccable posture, or his severity but although I couldn’t hear him when he was singing— not that he was to blame, it was clearly a problem beyond his control—, he played his part wonderfully. There were some good moments of comedy as well, almost all of them involving Dorian Held whose acting was remarkable, and those highlighted the huge potential of the show.
However, despite a cast that made the two-hour show bearable, and even enjoyable at times, it is impossible not to address the elephant in the room : the production was a disaster on too many levels. I decided to overlook the very high-school-like cardboard sets, the lights that were too slow to follow each character even though they were barely moving, or the fact that it took forever to change the sets in between the scenes. The terrible sound problems however, which made it impossible to actually hear the cast sing most of the time was truly shocking. When the music— which to be fair was really good— was not too loud, it was the microphones that didn’t work. The tech team as well as the directors did not do a great job, to say the least. Thank god I knew the plot, because I wouldn’t have been able to decipher everything. The show as a whole felt like the very first rehearsal as there were far too many quirks for it to be the result of weeks of preparation. Throughout the show, I couldn’t help but wonder : who approved this? Even some dancers seemed lost, especially the boys looked embarrassed and were desperately seeking approval and reassurance in each other’s eyes, which didn’t exactly dismiss the high school vibe of the production.
The most frustrating thing to me must have been the talent of the cast. I had seen them in other productions, I knew they were breathtaking performers and the few bits I could hear proved it, but their efforts were ruined by everything else. This production was beneath them, beneath the powerful and one-of-a-kind voice of Emily Phillips, beneath Olly Stanton’s effortlessly perfect acting, beneath Milly Wicks’ endearing energy, beneath Thomas Rainford’s charisma. There were a few miracles during the show, especially the song ‘There! Right There!’ and the finale ‘Find My Way’, two performances where everything seemed to work and which almost made me forget that, at some point, Emily Phillips had to carry around her microphone while simultaneously moving on stage in a tight dress and trying her best to deliver lines she hadn’t had time to memorise. Apart from those however, the show was a mess that even the ‘bend and snap’ couldn’t have distracted me from.
In conclusion, this production of Legally Blonde is not, unfortunately, a success story. The performers did their best with what they were given, and hats off to them for remaining professional, especially to Emily Phillips who saved the day. I can’t wait to see them in better productions where they will be able to shine as they should. None of them was at fault, and I truly admire them for their efforts. In a way, they were the real-life Elles Woods, ploughing through and eventually succeeding in their last performance.