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Legally Blonde

Date

3rd May 2019

Society

Whitley Bay Operatic Society

Venue

Whitley Bay Playhouse

Type of Production

Musical

Director

Claire Khass

Musical Director

Andrew Soulsby

Choreographer

Katie Mason & Chantal Riley

Report

Author: R J Lowry

Legally Blonde occupies an unusual position in the evolution of modern musicals. The whole story is based on then dumb-blonde-made-good premise but it also plays up the advantages of sexual display to get your own way. I can’t decide whether it is pre-#metoo, post #metoo or somewhere in the middle. Also at the same time it is a modern musical but curiously dated, fixed as it is in the youth culture pre-social media. But judging by the reaction of the Friday night performance I saw, none of this matters nor spoils the intense enjoyment of the predominantly young crowd. At times their enthusiasm reminded me of the audience in “Britain’s got Talent” what with the cheering after each big production though there is nothing wrong with that. It is great to see new audiences for amateur musical productions relishing what they see and hear in this high-quality production. The show was well set in largely movable/interchangeable scenery (though the lighting sometimes struggled to keep up) and dressing and the choreography was breath-taking especially during the big production numbers – it was awesome to see lead actors dance so vigorously and then manage dialogue (with authentic American accents) without so much as a pause for breath. Everyone on stage played their part in an energetic and pulsating evening’s entertainment. Mathew McGuire (Emmett) played a pebble that transforms into a rock with quiet confidence and developing character that was a pleasure to watch. He was very convincing. James Hardy (Warner) was an excellent heel-you-loved-to-hate, evoking just the right amount of hostility without losing the sympathetic element to our relationship with his character. He could have made him more loathsome but he didn’t, much to his credit. Well played James. Ian Cairns (Callaghan) was suitably obnoxious without ever going over-the-top; a masterful portrayal of a complex character that could have been one-dimensional but was well filled out and realistic. Nicola Hewett (Paulette) and Bryony Souza-Hawkins (Brooke) and Caroline Sabiston (Vivienne) also stood out getting much-deserved rounds of applause from the audience. The chorus (including the girls of Delta Nu) and the rest of the cast were superb – enthusiastic, committed, engaged, active, attentive and colourful (Stephen Mason's swarthy looks and great moves deserve a mention). But the star of the show was unquestionably Bethanie Mitchinson who played Elle Woods with verve, charisma, feeling and depth. Boy can she dance, sing and act and all done with such dynamism. Every big number brought the house down and she led from the front. The orchestra were superb: lively, enthusiastic, accomplished and harmonious. Well done to the director, musical director and choreographers Claire Khass, Andrew Soulsby and Katie Mason & Chantal Riley respectively. Even the programme was well done. This show was candy floss with a baseball stick – fluffy, colourful, sugary but hard-hitting.