OMIGOD you guys! Legally Blonde, one of my favourite modern musicals has been undertaken by Rochdale Musical Theatre Company.
The hit movie starring Reece Witherspoon brought to life on stage, accompanied by a brilliantly vibrant soundtrack with endless showstoppers. It tells the story of fashion-savvy Malibu girl, Elle Woods, who finds her life turned upside down when she’s dumped by boyfriend Warner. In an effort to win him back she finds out she’s more than just a pretty blonde as she heads to Harvard and takes on a journey of self-discovery where she learns “being true to yourself never goes out of style”.
If you’re not familiar with the stage show, it’s a high energy explosion of pink and girl power! It’s a show that requires a large cast full of triple-threats as it’s packed with large dance numbers, challenging songs and requires lots of heightened emotions.
Elle Woods in particular is a challenging role to play; it’s a vocally demanding role with very minimal time off stage. Leonie Picariello is a brilliant Elle, especially after ‘What You Want’ when she really started to relax into it. Picariello displays stunning vocals throughout, even through some high energy dance numbers: notably, in ‘So Much Better’ she really lets loose and demonstrates some powerful high notes.
It’s a positive to any show when you have so many people you want to mention. Although I wasn’t too sure about Zac Grenier as Emmett Forrest at first, I was quickly won over by his beautiful voice and great portrayal of the lovably nerdy Emmet. Specifically, in the ending of ‘Chip On My Shoulder’ his final note really showed his range and soft, yet compelling voice. His version of the character was a great contrast to Steven Cheeseman’s cool, suave (kind of an arse) Warner.
Cesca Astley was perfectly cast as the quirky hairdresser, Paulette. She immediately had me laughing with her expressive nature and comedic timing, Astley shows great panache as a fabulous comedy actress.
The three Delta Nu girls, Margot, played by Isabelle Melling, Serena, played by Jenya Robinson and Pilar, played by Annabelle Taylor were the perfect accompaniment to Elle, bringing excitement and style every time they entered the stage. Annabelle in particular stood out: her excitable characteristics were really engaging, drawing your eye in the larger group numbers. The whole ensemble was filled with talented dancers, although some of whom may need to up their energy to keep up with the leading ladies.
Another special mention goes to Maria Markland as fitness mogul Brooke Windham. Her Act 2 opener of ‘Whipped Into Shape’ was a feast for the eyes: combined with brilliant directorial and choreographic choices by Jess Bray and Nikki Wilkinson, they created an eye-catching opener with superb use of lighting and space. Also, massive props to Maria who skipped her way through the song without sounding even remotely out of breath!
Director Jess Bray also doubled as the misunderstood mean girl, Vivienne Kensington. She nailed the powerful vocals and bitchy-yet-likable attitude of posh girl Viv.
My stand-out moments have to be from the musical numbers ‘Bend and Snap’ and ‘Gay Or European/There Right There’ which had the whole audience crying laughing, as we figure out if Nikos really is gay or European in a camp, brash number.
There were quite a few issues with microphones, unfortunately for Hannah Collins as Enid, who was not amplified for the whole first act but did well to cover and adapt her vocals to ensure the audience could hear her quick-witted and assertive comedy lines. Other members of the cast also struggled with microphones, and it was a shame we lost some great vocals and dialogue to this, but it can be forgiven as an opening night defect.
This show has a great principal cast that meets the challenge of such a demanding musical head on. Forgiving some opening night jitters, the leading cast is ably supported by talented dancers in the ensemble. Legally Blonde will leave you grinning from ear to ear and ready to take on the world just like Elle!
You can catch Legally Blonde at Champness Hall Function Room in Rochdale until 9th October tickets available at: https://www.whatsoccurrinrochdale.co.uk/upcoming-events-1
Reviewer: Alison Ruck
Reviewed: 1st October 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★