Legally Blonde NODA Review
National Operatic & Dramatic Association
Society : M.A.O.S. Production : LEGALLY BLONDE
Date : Saturday 19th March 2016
Venue : The Shelley Theatre, Marlow
Report by : Gordon Bird, NODA Representative, Area 14
This was one of my favourite modern musicals with some lovely memorable tunes (particularly the opening number), good characters and comic opportunities. So I was delighted to be invited Marlow Amateur Operatic Society’s spring production of LEGALLY BLONDE THE MUSICAL, based on the 2009 film with music and lyrics by Lawrence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin and book by Heather Hach.
This is the fifth musical I have seen perform by this society and without doing any disservice to the previous shows, this was the best overall production I have witnessed by this talented group. The pace was breathtaking; the principal performances outstanding and the choreography exceptionally well rehearsed and delivered.
ELLE WOODS (BETH CAWTE)
have seen Beth once before playing “Lambchops” which she performed her character with great credit, I seem to recall. However, her performance as Elle Woods, was outstanding. She showed tremendous stamina by singing and dancing with amazing energy throughout. Her character as the “dumb blonde” to legal intern was spot on. Playing the role with more conviction it provided the part to be more believable. I always think the film version is a little “fluffy” and prefer this more honest interpretation. It gives far more credence to the title song Legally Blonde which was so heartfelt. Her movement around stage was so comfortable and her singing was first class. And oh my goodness, how well you did with all those quick costume changes! This was a truly a leading lady in a leading role. Congratulations.
EMMETT FOREST (NIVEN WILLETT)
This is another performer making his MAOS debut that I have had the pleasure of seeing perform for other local societies. Once again I have to say this was Niven’s best performance to date – comfortably understanding the nervy, quiet and unassuming character. His singing was very well delivered and his duets with Elle (Chip on my Shoulder, Take it Like A Man and Legally Blonde) were wonderfully balanced. Movement around the stage looked natural to the role and the tenderness of his love for Elle was perfectly acted out. Well done.
WARNER HUNTINGDON III (PAUL HARRIS)
Paul sung beautifully and with ease. He showed good reactions when he realised Elle’s qualities and I liked the way we saw the change from his arrogant, brash characterisation in Serious to a more subdued Serious (reprise).
MARGOT (ANNIE WATT), SERENA (HELEN BROWN) & PILAR (SUZANNA CORNISH)
I have grouped these three roles together as they always appeared on stage at the same time. From the opening song, Omigod You Guys, these three young ladies provided energy that was maintained throughout. I loved their Greek Chorus persona – with the simple white and blue costumes even looking like a Greek chorus. Their movement around the stage was very well rehearsed and their dancing was both energetic and tight.
PAULETTE BONAFONTE (LUCY NEWELL)
Lucy’s excellent vocal control was very much in evidence in this part of the sassy hairdresser. Her mesmerised stance when noticing the UPS man was wonderfully acted. The chemistry between her and Elle was nicely portrayed and seemed genuine.
PROFESSOR CALLAHAN (ZAC ABBOTT)
This was an assured role by Zac as the faculty’s law professor. This part is normally played someone who is older so that when he hits on Elle is becomes sleazy and I think because of this the effect lost some of the potency. However, Zac performed this role admirably. He commanded the stage with strong stage presence and his character was certainly believable. He has a strong, confident voice which matched the character perfectly, none more so that his first song Blood in the Water which encapsulated the character exceptionally well.
VIVIENNE KENSINGTON (NICOLA JONES)
I thought Nicola encapsulated Warner’s bitchy new girl friend character very well indeed. The look and the acidic delivery were measured with perfection. I also liked the change at the end when she admits she was wrong about her first impression. Nicola’s strong singing voice fitted the character completely.
ENID HOOPS/GRANDMASTER CHAD (KAREN HEMINGWAY)
Karen portrayed the part of the strong feminist law student with good understanding. She never overplayed her scenes, which could have been tempting, instead ensuring that the focus was in the right place. Her comic timing was good allowing her lines to do the work.
BROOKE WYNDHAM (EMILY TRY)
This was a nice character part by Emily. Her dancing was so energetic I was concerned she would not be able to speak – but she showed incredible stamina, singing and dancing superbly during Whipped Into Shape at the beginning of act two.
There are so many parts in this production with many performers taking on the role of several characters. It is going to be impossible to mention everyone so my apologies if I have not written a detailed comment. What I can say is that every character was very well performed – each performer had a clear character that was presented very well indeed. Vocal volume and diction was excellent; movement was polished and entrances and exits promptly executed. Chutney Wyndham, the spoilt step daughter who appears as a witness at the court case was ably played by KATIE NEWELL. Kate (SAMANTHA CLEAVER) added vocals and strong performance in What You Want. SARAH JANE COSGROVE’s strong dancing was useful in all of the dance numbers but I loved her miming as the Cashier in the hair salon. Lielani (RACHEL DIXON) one of the Delta Nu sorority sisters, sung and danced well. LAUREN CUBBITT again showed good strong dancing and vocals and I her TV reporter lines were delivered well. MARK NEWELL performed the role of Nikos, the pool guy and one of the key witnesses at the trail very well indeed. Elle’s Mom (SHIRLEY JENKINS-PANDYA) looked comfortable as the high flying socialite mother of Elle. I noticed that Elle’s father was not cast so assumed his lines were also spoken by Shirley. And of course, I have to add a huge well done to both BOMBER (playing the part of Bruiser) and LUNA (Rufus) who looked perfectly at ease on stage in their respective cameo roles
DIRECTOR (HEATHER BUSTIN) & ASSISTANT DIRECTOR (KATY MITCHELL) The show was perfectly cast with everyone of the parts so well chosen. It would be churlish to say that the part of the Professor should be someone older or that the part of Warner by someone younger because both played their roles very well. Movement was precise, with everyone knowing exactly what to do. Characters were exceptionally well defined, even the chorus. I enjoyed watching the little scenes being acted act in the background (for example, in the restaurant during Serious). I loved some of the additional touches added by the directing team (the references to Reece Witherspoon and watching Glee, for example). With the cast members taking on and off stage properties, the pace was never dropped with the little over two hours of performance seeming to be over far too quickly.
MUSICAL DIRECTOR (IAN HEAD)
The opening number Omigod You Guys started the show as it meant to go proceed. It was full of energy and excellent vocal arrangements. All of the principals were very well rehearsed and worked very well together as a team, their blend of voices complimenting perfectly. Clearly a lot of work had gone into this production but every moment was justified given the high quality of the singing. I understand that some of the members were suffering from head colds – but you would never have known, given the quality of the performers. I did feel that they keyboards were little too loud for the opening number, but either this was resolved or I became accustomed to the levels as I did not notice this being an issue for the rest of the evening. The six part orchestra was well conducted and worked well with the on stage performers.
CHOREOGRAPHERS (SAMANTHA CLEAVER & RACHEL DIXON)
This was quite an energetic show to set – with a lot of dancing or movement from the beginning to the end. All of the dances were choreographed very well with the performers in mind, there was never a moment when anyone even looked out of time. What I particularly liked was that everyone was looking out front – no-one was looking at someone else on stage for guidance or re-assurance - a clear indication that the show was very well rehearsed.
LIGHTING DESIGN (STEWART MASON) I liked the purple/pink wash that greeted the open set at the beginning of the show – it set the scene perfectly. Each of the songs was sensitively lit, with all the performers being seen. I noted the lighting changed within the song when the mood changed, fitting perfectly. Of course the back projection was sometimes washed out to ensure all of the stage was lit, but the scene had already been set and the audience got the picture, so it was fine. Cues were expertly executed without any noticeable delays.
FOLLOW SPOT (ANDREW MEDHURST & VICKI FOLEY)
The follow spot was very well focused and controlled with great care and skill. Movement was steady without any noticeable issues.
SOUND (STEPHEN MEDHURST, RAYMOND MEDHURST & MADELEINE BLAKE)
I thought that the keyboards were a little loud at the beginning – but, and to quantify this point, the balance was never a problem as I heard all the lyrics. The orchestrated sound was mixed perfectly with the singers. Although the principals used head microphones, you would never have known as these were skilfully managed by the sound team.
STAGE MANAGER (RAYMOND MEDHURST) ASM (MADELEINE BLAKE)
The pace of the show never dropped, not even for scene changes, which is a huge compliment to a well run back stage. Props and furnishings appeared and disappeared with great smoothness and efficiency. At no time was anything ever seemed out of place or forgotten.
COSTUMES (PHIL COUCH)
The costumes all looked relevant to the period and location. They all looked appropriate to the characters but I did wonder if Warner would be wear a blazer rather than a grey jumper? All of the costumes looked like they fitted perfectly. I loved the Greek chorus costumes – white with the blue emblem over the triangle, which looked classically Greek.
PROPERTIES (MADELEINE BLAKE)
All of the properties looked apt to the period, location and scene. I was wondering how the PCs were going to be shown and liked the idea of using Ipads that were in cases.
The makeup looked very well applied to all of the cast members as I could see everyone’s facial expressions under the stage lighting.
A very simple set was used to great effect. It goes to show that with some imagination, good projection, additional stage adornments, sets can be used to support the action rather than smoother. There are many different locations that have to be presented very quickly (a prison cell, an apartment, Havard University lecture hall, a department store, a court room, a hair salon, a caravan) and all of these were presented with a clear back projection and a door or a practical piece of furniture.
FRONT OF HOUSE The busy front of house team serviced almost a full house very well indeed. I was met by the chairman and president and made very welcome. I liked the idea of the front of house sashes worn by the team, making them very easy to spot.
This is one of the best programmes I have witnessed for a long time. There were some interesting articles with good quality photographs, coloured (pink of course) pages throughout. The font was of a good size and could easily be read in the auditorium. Unfortunately it cannot be entered for the NODA annual programme and flyers competition and suggest that the society checks the rules should they wish to enter any future programmes to be judged.
It is always difficult to write a review when the show goes well. You look for any comments that can help a society to improve for future productions. But on this occasion I am genuinely struggling as this was an exceptionally produced show that would not have looked out of place on any professional stage. I hope the society manages to keep the members they found for this show and I look forward with relish to their next production.
Gordon Bird NODA representative London Region, District 14