Legally Blonde: The Musical

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A glittery show of self-discovery, love and being true to oneself in your own pink way.

By Flora Yeo

“What makes the musical lovable even after nearly 20 years later is the relevance of female empowerment and the #metoo movement, themes which resonate in today’s context.”

Legally Blonde: The Musical tells a story of Delta Nu Sorority Sister Elle Woods, and her amazing pursuit of a sexy man, Warner Huntington III. A cheery show that combines easy listening, fancy costumes and head-bobbing songs, this is a guilty pleasure for a girls’ night out.

Unwrapping the sugar-coated musical, it is not hard to like the iconic 2001 film of the same title that starred Reese Witherspoon as the titular character, Elle Woods. Thanks to Base Entertainment Asia, this box office hit took the stage at the Sands Theatre with an upbeat, all-singing, all-dancing musical adaptation in May 2018.

Elle Woods, the beautiful blonde sorority girl with a Chihuahua in hand and a penchant for all things pink, is your fellow law student at Harvard Law School. Despite enrolling in the prestigious course for all the wrong reasons, she climbs to the top of her class without sacrificing her public declaration for hot pink colour. On top of that, she stays true to herself, and leans into her feminist side without trying too hard.  

While Woods sounds like the perfect girl who went on an envious journey of self-discovery, what makes the musical lovable even after nearly 20 years later is the relevance of female empowerment and the #metoo movement, themes which resonate in today’s context.

For actress Maris McCulley, who plays Woods in the musical, she calls this ‘an amazing time’. “It’s really great to bring the story to life again after almost two decades,” she shared with at the media call.

On the surface, Legally Blonde feels like a bubblegum pop-like show with nothing more than catchy music and glitzy dance numbers. But from a female standpoint, it is refreshing to see a layered character like Woods in a stage production. With strong feminist undertones, there is a powerful message about sisterhood and ladies coming together to support one another.

Even for actor Jayson Speters, who plays Emmett Forrest, Woods’ eventual love interest, he shares that his one big song number is special to him because it’s all about Woods.

“Often, you don’t get to see a male lead take his big moment to say that here she (Woods) is, and she’s the point, not me,” explains Jayson. “I look at it to be a special opportunity. Emmet is always there to lift Elle up in ways that I think most men should.”

While the musical feels victorious in many ways, there are various aspects that felt dated. Firstly, there’s the entire song of “Bend and Snap”, where Elle and her guardian angels teach Paulette a seductive move to get a man’s attention: reach down with straight legs and push out your rear to pick up an object from the floor.

Then, to add to its campiness, the UPS delivery man, whom Paulette is infatuated with, starts cavorting around Paulette’s ‘package’ with his all-male dance crew. I am all for showing off one’s charm and attractive curves, but what happened to choosing brains over boys? After all, this is one of the main themes of the musical. I don’t deny that it can be an innocuous scene, but perhaps it can be better staged in 2018.

While the show was written years ago, I can’t fault the musical as a whole, nor can I expect an entire scene with a beautiful song number in it to be written out. If slight tweaks can be made to stretch the musical’s longevity, I strongly believe that the inspirational story arc can be enjoyed by more people.

That particular scene with a flamboyant gay character also threads a thin line between stereotyping and humour. In today’s society, we can see more queer characters that move away from the ‘broken wrist’ kind of portrayal.

All in all, while there are moments that could improve, this glittery musical is a fun and sassy story of self-discovery, love, and being true to oneself in your own pink way.

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