Legally Blonde is one of my favourite musicals of recent times with its catchy score and feel good factor so I was thrilled to hear that the show was being performed at the glorious Stockport Plaza by Ohana Theatre. With the show taking a professional sabbatical until later this year amateur companies across the country have seized the opportunity to present their versions and increase the shows reach.
Ohana Theatre have produced what I would describe as a stripped back version of the show and it is clear they don’t have the budget for fancy all singing, all dancing sets and lighting, something many amateur societies struggle with these days. But at the end of the day theatre is about performance and not the dressing.
I will get the negatives out of the way first if I may? My biggest regret for this production was the lack of a live band to accompany the show. Whilst the backing track performed to was adequate there is nothing like a live band in a theatre and this show suffered from the benefits it provides. Music (vamps) to take us through the scene changes make a huge difference to any production, we hardly notice them but when they are not there the darkness and silence in-between scenes is more than evident. The scene transitions were bumpy throughout and at times painful to watch as your eyes adjusted to the darkness before being overwhelmed when the lights came back up. With the vast stage at the Plaza I feel it could have been utilised more in respect of scene setting and transitions.
My second grumble was the sound. Microphone cues were missed and as a result vocals were lost in the vast theatre. Add to this the volume of the backing track seeming to rise and fall almost without reason throughout it was quite off putting. This could have been first night niggles, however they were there. I must add however that the cast dealt admirably with the accompaniment, which is never easy as there is no escape should a mistake be made. Tonight they cast were almost faultless throughout in this area.
The cast consisted of entirely youth performers, and to see so many people on stage with a passion for what they were doing was a joy. Not one person at any time fell out of character and acted the whole show very well. Daisy Miles as leading lady Elle Woods was well suited to this demanding role. On stage for the majority of the show she was confident and had a good voice which in time will develop into a great one.
Elle’s two love interests were both well cast with Liam Casey playing Warner Huntington III and James McMillan Emmett Forrest. Of the two I have to say McMillan was the stronger performer who really embraced the role. His mannerisms were spot on and a good voice to back this up.
Professor Callahan played by Lewis Moore had the right amount of authority and sleaze about him and Amber MacFarlane as Brooke Wyndham was energetic and skilled during “Whipped Into Shape” displaying exceptional skipping skills along with the rest of the ensemble.
The star of this production was without question Bethany Johnson as Paulette. I have been fortunate enough to see this show performed by a number of both professional and amateur companies and Johnson is up there with the best I have seen. Her interpretation of the role was first class as was her vocals. I would be very surprised if I don’t see her on stage more as the years go by in a professional capacity.
On the whole this was a good production, if let down slightly by the technical elements associated with it. The choreography was very good throughout and for such a large cast, the costumes impressive.
In the programme it lists “Linzi” as the director and choreographer of the show. Whilst I assume she has numerous support staff around her I believe this show may have benefitted from a separate choreographer and director. It felt at times like the emphasis was placed more on choreography (which was good) and less on direction. A personal view…
August sees Ohana Theatre’s annual summer school taking place when they will be producing High School Musical. Full details can be found at www.weareohana.com and I am looking forward to the chance of seeing this next production.
Reviewer: Paul Downham
Reviewed: 4th March 2016