Legally Blonde

SMUS-Views-Bob

Legally Blonde is a clever title – for a movie, and more so, I think, for the musical the movie begat. Last night our students opened the musical, and if that show is any basis for comparison, the musical is better than the movie. Every year we invite about seventy Annual Fund guests (the Head’s Circle of donors) to Opening Night of the musical – they along with hundreds of other people on the floor, balcony and boxes spoke with one voice at the end: when the final curtain fell, the audience rose in a spontaneous and enthusiastic ovation.

I smiled continuously from about fifteen seconds after the opening curtain. Although the show has a good number of excellent lead roles, the opening chorus number establishes emphatically that here is a performing troupe with depth: singers, dancers, musicians, directors, costumers and prop-deliverers all fulfill their roles with energy and sparkle. The most challenging aspect of high school musicals is getting the various chorus ensembles to contribute more energy and polish to the performance rather than less. The chorus roles (including, in the case of Legally Blonde, a bona fide Greek chorus) – dancers, singers, and lesser parts – were focused and attentive. They understand that if they aren’t in character all the time, the colour drains from the show, and the background becomes gray. Even the set changes, which have to be choreographed into the middle of songs and dances, are part of the action. Last night, all the action was vibrant, upstage and down.

I am always proud of the musicians in our productions. Last night was particularly challenging, in that they didn’t get a break. Our pit orchestra is always our pit orchestra: composed of student musicians. A parent at the show commented, as if it was hardly credible, that these musicians not only prepare for the demands of these performances, they also have a full slate of academic and other extra commitments. Legally Blonde is demanding: the music is non-stop – there is almost no dialogue to allow for resting the musical muscles. Great work all round.

The lead roles were spectacular: I have to resist the temptation to single actors out. Every role and every actor had charm and polish. Thinking back, every delivery of every role was authentic and effective. I was impressed with the depth among the leads. From entry to entry on stage, each successive lead took the baton, ran with it and passed it on seamlessly to the next outstretched hand. The pacing was dramatically tight, effective and sustained. It takes a lot of practice and a lot of effort to convey such effortlessness.

As you may have gathered, my cup is overflowing with memorable moments from the show. There are a few seats left for the remaining performances. Go to the MacPherson Theatre website, and treat yourself to a couple of hours that will transform you.

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Bob Snowden
Bob Snowden is Head of School at St. Michaels University School.

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