WOW!'s most recent show Legally Blonde ran from 17-22 February 2020.
Legally Blonde is a musical with music and lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin and book by Heather Hach. The story is based on the novel Legally Blonde by Amanda Brown and the 2001 film of the same name. It tells the story of Elle Woods, a sorority girl who enrols at Harvard Law School to win back her ex-boyfriend Warner. She discovers how her knowledge of the law can help others, and successfully defends exercise queen Brooke Wyndham in a murder trial. Throughout the show, no one has faith in Elle Woods, but she manages to surprise them when she defies expectations while staying true to herself.
Braintree & Witham Times Review by Ron Fosker
A blaze of colour bounces off the stage in WOW!’s latest production, Legally Blonde.
The bright red Harvard gowns to the ghostly white Greek chorus and the lurid orange of the skipping dance – with some clever intricate moves from Poppy Fisher – are topped by the various shades of pink adorning the lead character Elle Woods.
Hannah Ireland, who plays Elle, is the latest off Witham Amateur Operatic Society’s junior section’s seemingly endless production line.
After making her debut two years ago at the age of 13, she graduated to the demanding central role in which she was rarely off the stage.
She showed great poise and assurance, a good grasp of the nuances of the role and a powerful singing voice.
Emily Birt, as the lively Paulette, showed good comic timing, particularly in the riff on Ireland (the country not Hannah), while Fraser McLauchlan, William Hackett and Tom Nicoll made the male roles their own.
In a show lacking memorable songs, the dancing came into its own and choreographer Louise Lachance marshalled her forces with her usual flair while the whole thing was skilfully held together by director Nikki Mundell-Poole, returning to the role after a six-year absence.
After the final performance, Tom Nicoll was presented with the Helen Temperley Memorial Award, given each year for ‘loyalty, hard work, selfless commitment and a great sense of fun and enjoyment.’
WITHAM OPERATIC WORKSHOP
LEGALLY BLONDE - The Musical
Director Nikki Mundell-Poole
Musical Director Susannah Edom
Choreographer Louise Lachance
Performed at Witham Public Hall, Witham
February 17th - 22nd 2020
What a lovely welcome to Witham Public Hall. Congratulations to the Front of House team for their warmth and efficiency in making everyone feel welcome. Legally Blonde is a very popular musical and this was reflected in the size and enthusiasm of the audience.
The opening number set the scene for a lively show with a very bright rendering of 'Omigod You Guys'. This first introduction gave us a flavour of the breadth of talent which shone through all the chorus numbers in the production. Everyone showed a high energy level and stayed in character from their first appearance and maintained this throughout the show.
This scene also gave us our first introduction to Elle Woods, played by Hannah Ireland. This role is truly challenging and Hannah really took on the complexities of the part. She demonstrated every nuance of this constantly evolving character and danced and sang with energy. This was an excellent performance.
Tom Nicoll as Warner Huntington III gave the role just the right amount of arrogance. He was always convincing and maintained the character. It was so easy to dislike him!!
In contrast, Fraser McLauchlan's Emmett was instantly likeable. He showed a warmth of character particularly in his dialogue which was so well done.
William Hackett's arrival on the scene as Professor Callaghan was commanding. He instantly established himself in the role. This was a very mature characterisation. Well done.
Paulette Buonufonte was well portrayed by Emily Birt. She showed the right mix of being both browbeaten and feisty. I enjoyed her Irish number. Lily Follett's portrayal of the snobby, pretentious Vivienne Kensington was also well played and Poppy Fisher gave us a very good characterisation of Brooke Wyndham.
I have to mention Ben Rolph's first appearance as Kyle. Just the right amount of swagger.
The company played many roles throughout the piece and were always in character. The Sorority girls and the Greek chorus worked particularly well. There was never a moment when the acting and concentration slipped which enabled a very tight production. I particularly enjoyed the Harvard scene for the excellent music and choreography which demonstrated the quality of the chorus. The strength of the dancing was also evident in 'Bend and Snap' and 'Whipped into Shape'. What an amazing workout!
The whole piece was very well supported musically. The orchestra always enhanced the quality of singing which ensured a good balance of voice and instruments.
The back stage team led by Stage Manager, David Hunt, worked really well. The scenery always enhanced the action. Lighting generally complimented the action but the rather random nature of the following spot was disconcerting. Sound levels were excellent. Costume and make-up were so appropriate for this show. Well done.
Director Nikki Mundell-Poole must be congratulated for creating a fast paced and very professional production. This was such a joyful celebration of young talent. The response from the audience as they left demonstrated what a successful show this was.
TheatreLife Review by Christine Adams Davidson (theatrelife.org)
‘Legally Blonde’ is an award winning musical with lyrics and music by Neil Benjamin and Laurence O Keefe. The book is by Heather Hatch and adapted from the novel by Amanda Brown. The film starring Reese Witherspoon was produced in 2001.
Elle Woods is the popular young sorority girl who pursues her dreams from the Delta Nu Sorority Houses to the Halls of Justice. A young girl, who usually gets everything she wants, then gets abandoned by her boyfriend Warner who she was expecting to marry. Telling her she is too blonde and will not make a serious wife for a young lawyer, he leaves for Harvard. She decides to follow him hoping to change his mind and win him back. Once at Harvard she tackles stereotypes, scandal and snobbery in pursuit of her dreams.
Hannah Ireland as Elle Woods was the irrepressible heroine of the story who embodied the character with energy and pizzazz as she sang her way through some very difficult numbers, with warmth and ease. Not only looking the part, she gave us a wonderful interpretation and made the role her own. On stage for virtually the whole of the show; she had a fantastic voice, singing effortlessly and keeping her accent throughout; as did all the cast.
Emily Birt as Paulette the bubbly hairdressing friend of Elle was also super. I loved her solo ‘Ireland’ and the dance with her romantic delivery man Kyle (Ben Rolph).
The two romantic leads for Elle were Tom Nicoll as Warner Huntington III and Fraser McLauchlan as Emmett Forrest. Both portrayed their characters on stage, with maturity and confidence, giving very enjoyable performances.
William Hackett as Professor Callahan gave an outstanding performance. His stature on stage and his clear strong singing voice gave us an incredible character right from the off and it’s hard to believe that this young man is only fifteen; he was absolutely excellent. Other impressive performances included Lily Follett as Elle’s snobby, bitchy rival Vivienne and Poppy Fisher as Brooke Wyndham. How this young girl sang, skipped and exercised at the same time was simply fantastic.
Great support too from Elle’s Greek Chorus and her UCL friends Serena, Pilar and Margot. (Isabella Flynn Haddon, Poppy Taylor and Meg Abbott). The whole cast performed with energy and you could see they were enjoying every moment of their time on stage.
They say never work with children and animals on stage but this is simply not the case with this show as the wonderful dogs Bruiser (Foxy) and Rufus (Copper) were great and loved by the audience.
The choreography for this show was excellent with some wonderful numbers performed. Louise Lachance obviously had worked incredibly hard to get the numbers spot on and each were very impressive. The skipping routine ‘Whipped into Shape’ was superb as was ‘What you want’.
Costumes were very good and the wigs by Patsy Page, as always excellent. The music was supplied by a first-rate orchestra, led by Musical Director, Susannah Edam and was spot on, never overpowering the cast.
There was clever use of simple sets, with the backstage crew working with ease and control; the scene changes were effortless. Experienced director, Nikki Mundell-Poole had obviously worked tirelessly to get this production to the audience and gave us a really feel good show with energy and pace.
You know you are going to see a great show when Nikki is directing.
My only criticism has to be the lighting, there were various issues, including parts of the stage being occasionally left in shadow. Right from the beginning the follow spot was not well placed leaving some of the cast in the dark. I also felt with the various scene changes that the working lights behind the action could have been darker so we didn’t see so much of the crew, when moving the props and scenery. Bringing down the blue working lights slightly would have definitely helped.
Congratulations to everyone for this feel good production and to the warmth of the front of house team who always give a great welcome to everyone. It was a pleasure to watch this show and to come out humming the song ‘Legally Blonde’ at the end. Grab a ticket now and go see this show.
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