Legally Blonde by Festoon Theatre Company
Legally Blonde is a show I know like the back of my hand having seen 5 different versions of it prior to Festoon’s production and having directed an amateur production of it myself. Add onto this the fact that I am blonde and a lawyer it is a show that is very close to my heart.
With shows that mean a lot to you there is often the danger that a production doesn’t live up to the inward self created hype but Festoon had nothing to worry about on that front and I left grinning from ear to ear, reminiscing over all of the wonderful moments within their show.
For those that have never seen Legally Blonde the show focuses on Elle Woods, a sorority girl who follows her ex boyfriend to Harvard Law School in order to prove to him that she can be what he wants, someone serious and lawyerly. Along the way however Elle discovers that what she thinks Warner wants may not be who she really is after all.
Festoon Theatre Company have succeeded in putting on a production of Legally Blonde that retains its timeless feel whilst bringing it bang up to date. The Delta Nu’s appear with phones and use them instead of candles, Brooke Wyndnham is a Tik Tok fitness Queen and CV’s and internship results are sent via email. Additionally and more importantly small tweaks are made to the language and references to make it more inclusive and were well thought out by the team at Festoon.
The success of Legally Blonde as a musical often rests at the feet, or high heeled shoes, of the person playing Elle Woods. Georgia Blessitt took on this role for Festoon Theatre Company and was utterly enthralling. Not only did Blessitt have stunning vocals knowing when to stick to the written melody and when to have fun with a riff or a run but she was funny and warm. The audience easily believed that Elle was popular with her sorority sisters and could befriend the likes of Paulette instantly thanks to Blessitt’s charismatic portrayal. She was a chameleon in the best way hitting the nail on the head in the heart wrenching moments such as ‘Legally Blonde,’ busting out dance moves in Legally Blonde remix (whilst in heels) and having the audience in fits of laughter with her throughout the show.
I must also mention Charlie Walker who played Vivienne and did so oozing class and sophistication as well as waiting the whole show only to let rip with powerful vocals in the penultimate number. Emmett Forrest was played by Alvin Zapata who had a lovely tone to his vocals and I enjoyed his softer portrayal of Emmett, although I would have liked to have seen more growth and confidence in the later part of act 2, mirroring Elle’s own journey. From Professor Callaghan, played by Sergio Altamirano, a bit more light and shade from him would have assisted Altamirano’s portrayal of him as whilst I appreciate that Callaghan can be a very deadpan part even more variance in the intonation may have helped.
The principals were supported by an ensemble cast full of energy and 2 adorable dogs who threated to steal the show whenever they appeared on stage. Despite a cast of in excess of 30 the stage never looked too crowded each person got their moment in the spot light thanks to the numerous cameos within the show. The ensemble were also happy not to take themselves too seriously, from a plethora of UPS men appearing during ‘Bend and Snap,’ to the mannequin moment (you need to see it to understand) these little touches made the show unique and added further touches of originality to a musical many of the audience would have seen before.
The set was used to brilliant effect with a raised platform at the back end, with a video wall behind it, showing everything from FaceTime calls to Zoom meetings, further cementing the 2023 setting of this version of the show. This also transported the audience to various locations very quickly without the need for long, drawn out scene changes. The stage was a thrust stage and this was well considered by Director Matthew Pimm and it was very rare that I felt like I was watching the back of anyone’s head, always a danger for shows in this layout.
The show did suffer from sound issues on opening night when I was in, which did cause frustration for the audience and I’m sure the production team alike, so much so that the show had to be stopped to try to resolve this. However it was a testament to the cast and stage and the teamwork that goes into a show like this that after the show stop they were able to get back into their high energy stride instantly.
Overall Festoon have produced a fresh, exciting and inclusive production of Legally Blonde which succeeds in getting the audience to laugh, cry and cheer along with Elle and all those on her journey with her.
Legally Blonde is on until 24th June at Questors Theatre. You can find out more about Festoon Theatre Company and buy tickets on their website.
For those not familiar with Festoon Theatre Company their aim is to have a cast of ‘at least 50% of people of colour,’ and with diversity often lacking on stage, especially in amateur theatre it is wonderfully to see Festoon Theatre Company tackling this head on and with the diversity on stage in Legally Blonde it shows it can be done.