Review / Loud band mars bright show’s opening night

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Charlotte Gearside, centre, is perfectly cast as Elle Wood and carries the show with a strong, confident performance… Photo: Ross Gould.

Theatre / “Legally Blonde”, directed by Jim McMullen for the Canberra Philharmonic Society, at Erindale Centre, until September 7. Reviewed by BILL STEPHENS.

THE Canberra Philharmonic Society has come up with a bright, chirpy production of this light-hearted musical, which, with it’s not-too-convincing message of female empowerment, or “never judge a book by its cover” attitude, depicts the experiences of pretty blonde Elle Woods, who decides to follow her snobbish boyfriend into law school.

There, she discovers her ultra-feminine appearance works against her progress until she reveals a sharp legal mind, which wins her the respect of her peers, and an unexpected romance.

Charlotte Gearside is perfectly cast as Elle Wood and carries the show with a strong, confident performance which showcases her formidable singing, dancing and acting skills. She receives strong support from her two leading men, Patrick Galen-Mules as the snobbish Warner, and Nick Valois as the ever-reliable Emmett, both of whom have good stage presence and sing attractively. 

As the big-hearted hairdresser, Paulette, Hannah Maurice almost steals the show… Photo: Ross Gould.

As the big-hearted hairdresser, Paulette, Hannah Maurice almost steals the show revealing a huge voice and comedic talent with her show-stopping performance of “Ireland”. Ian Croker, who also designed the spectacular set, provides another memorable performance as the smarmy Professor Callahan, his performance of “Blood in the Water” providing a memorable highlight.

Kat Bramston gives a nicely under-stated performance as Elle’s rival Vivienne, and Meaghan Stewart, Amelia Juniper-Grey, Amy Campbell, Courtney Hayden, Tim Maher and Liam Jones stand out in the large ensemble, all making the most of their opportunities in supporting roles.  

Director Jim McMullen made full use of a clever set and lighting design to keep the show moving along at a fast bat, guiding his large cast through a series of imaginative scene changes and spectacular production numbers for which choreographer Sarah Tulley, who certainly knows how to fill a stage with interesting movement, has created some spot-on choreography to challenge her large ensemble of brightly costumed dancers, all of who perform with considerable panache.

However, despite all the good work, it was a pity that on opening night poor sound balance between Richard Daley’s excellent, but over-enthusiastic band meant that many of lyrics of the songs were unintelligible, particularly in the opening scenes, detracting considerably from the overall enjoyment of an otherwise admirable presentation. 


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