Hart House theatre was alive this weekend with the energy and enthusiasm of the UC Follies’ Legally Blonde: The Musical. Based on the 2001 movie starring Reese Witherspoon, the musical tells the story of blonde, cheerful sorority sister Elle Woods, who, after being dumped by her boyfriend in favour of a more ‘serious woman,’ applies to Harvard Law School in a grand romantic attempt to win him back. Although this may seem like a setup for a sexist criticism of women who only care about fashion and boys, those who are familiar with the story know that it becomes quickly obvious that the themes are in fact strikingly feminist and aware. The musical is telling the story of a young, ambitious woman who works hard to succeed at her goals.
The story is particularly appropriate for a contemporary U of T audience — as there are many young undergraduate women (and men) who can relate to Elle Woods as she struggles to balance identity, ambition and stigma from both her peers and professors.
Director Cierra Walker explained to The Varsity via an email interview that she was well aware of the significance of the underlying message when selecting the show. “Elle’s story still resonated so strongly in me,” she said, “as a woman, and as a university student …I just needed to bring that to a stage, because I know so many people can still connect to Elle Woods.”
The very spirit of Elle herself was embodied perfectly by the Follies’ lead actress, Olivia Lewis, whose effortless on-stage joie de vivre and phenomenal singing abilities blew the audience away scene after scene. The force of her presence, as well as the singing and acting talents of many of the individual members of the cast carried the show where the ensemble of 27 otherwise succumbed to disorganization. The underlying air of shoddiness was not aided by the handful of microphone dysfunctions, which sadly caused a couple of the more iconic jokes from the original movie to fall flat. However for every joke that was rendered inaudible, there were at least as many delivered with such a profound spirit of ‘on point-ness’ as to induce the hysterical laughter that a performance of Legally Blonde calls for.
Ultimately, it was no doubt the ambitious choreography and the well executed vocal harmonies from the full ensemble that were more than enough of a payoff for the jumbled presentation. It was evident from beginning to end that each and every member of the cast and production was having the time of their lives throughout the duration of the show, and that this atmosphere was thoroughly absorbed by the audience from the very first number.