Ultra Vires


Legally Blonde: The Musical

Omigod you guys it was so good

Most of us are familiar with Legally Blonde and the journey of Elle Woods from empty-headed sorority president to star criminal law student at Harvard Law School. (What? Like it’s hard?) 

The 2001 movie with Reese Witherspoon and her iconic Chihuahua was a hit and, with the addition of upbeat songs and choreography, it was adapted into a Broadway musical in 2007. 

The production of Legally Blonde: The Musical ran at the Hart House Theatre from 17 January to 1 February 2020. Emma Sangalli played the role of Elle Woods with enthusiasm and the perfect amount of peppiness—as you would expect—and not a blonde curl was out of place during the entire performance. 

The tall and dashing Warner Huntington III was played by John Carr Cook, whose sneering dismissal of Elle makes him an easy villain to hate. His role was contrasted by Ethan Vasquez Taylor’s Emmett Forrest, whose sweet mentorship of Elle eventually blossoms into a romantic relationship. 

For me, Moulan Bourke stood out as Paulette Buonofuonte, the ditzy hairdresser and Elle’s trusted confidante, who also serves as the musical’s comic relief. Most of the cast had strong vocals, and by the end of the musical, the entire cast received standing ovations from the audience. 

Compared to the original movie, the musical is less focused on Elle, allowing Emmett’s and Paulette’s characters to be developed a little more fully. This also allows the audience to develop a better understanding of Emmett’s and Paulette’s motivations and, hence, to form stronger connections with those characters. 

The musical opens with a high-energy rendition of “Omigod You Guys”, a celebration of Elle and Warner’s then picture-perfect relationship. Even though we all know Warner turns out to be less than ideal, I can promise you this song will be stuck in your head for at least a week. 

“The Harvard Variations” is a satirical (I hope) exploration of the different law school stereotypes, from the trust-fund legacy lawyer to the gungho human rights activist. This number elicited chuckles and laughs from the audience, but for the law students in the crowd, it was a little on the nose. 

“Blood in the Water” by Brian Vaughn’s Professor Callahan is a menacing warning about the difficulty of law school and how it pits students against each other. 

“Gay or European” was another personal favourite, a musical recreation of the cross-examination scene in Elle’s criminal trial. 

This musical was Saccha Dennis’ directorial debut at Hart House Theatre, with Giustin MacLean as music director and Gregory Carruthers as choreographer. 

During “Whipped into Shape”, the cast belted out the lyrics while performing synchronized jump-rope, a feat that must not have been easy to choreograph. 

Holly Meyer-Dymy’s set designs and Kathleen Black’s costume designs helped create the immersive experience and allowed the musical to seamlessly transition from sunny California to the competitive Harvard Law School. 

I especially loved that the director chose to set the musical in the late 90’s, which allowed the costume designer to pay tribute to the denim miniskirts of the era. It added a sense of nostalgia to the production.

At two-and-a-half hours of high-energy song and dance, this musical was a welcome break from studying and making outlines. It may not be the most accurate portrayal of the law school experience, but everyone can learn something from Elle’s determination and positive attitude, even in the face of being snaked by fellow classmates or getting dumped by the man she wanted to marry. I guarantee that anyone who watches this musical will leave with a smile on their face.

The Hart House Theatre is a mere seven-minute walk from the law school. Student tickets cost $15 most days of the week and $12 on Wednesdays. These musicals are a welcome break from the usual grind of readings and assignments, and I would definitely recommend checking them out.

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