Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Legitimately vacuous

Legally Blonde: The Musical hits west-end theatre

Anna Hursham, who plays Elle, trades a Chihuahua for an Italian greyhound in the LOT production. Credit: Seanna Kennedy Photography
Omigod, you guys.
 
The first local production of Legally Blonde: The Musical is coming to the Lower Ossington Theatre almost two years after the touring version sashayed through Toronto. Prepare to bend and snap like it’s 2001.
 
The musical, based on the movie of the same name, is simple enough: boy dumps girl because she’s not “serious”; girl enrolls in Harvard Law School to win boy back; girl becomes valedictorian and falls in love with way superior boy in the process. But there’s one idiosyncrasy (purists might even call it a minor sacrilege) to the LOT production that bears mentioning: Elle Wood’s Chihuahua, Bruiser, is played by an Italian Greyhound.
 
“We started our search for a Chihuahua but fell in love with Buckminster [the Italian Greyhound] when we met him,” says Michael Galloro, the show’s production manager, technical director and set designer. “He’s great on stage. Hopefully he doesn’t get stage fright on opening night!”
 
No pressure, Buckminster, but you’ve got a lot to live up to. The New York production of Legally Blonde received seven Tony nominations in 2006/2007, and the London production won three Laurence Olivier Awards just last year. 
 
“That [success] is one more reason I wanted to do the show,” says Jeff Hookings (Cats, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat), who plays Warner, the aforementioned douchebag boyfriend.
 
Awards notwithstanding, Legally Blonde is perhaps most notable for uniting fans and critics around identical if opposing opinions: the musical is either panned as vacuous fun or lauded as, well, vacuous fun. The LOT production is likely to garner the same uneasy consensus.
 
“Loud, catchy music, big smiles, flashy costumes and sets . . . What’s not to like?” asks Galloro.
 
Auditions were held in mid-January, and the cast has been rehearsing ever since. One particularly tricky number involves synchronized jump-roping. It’s exhausting to watch, says Galloro, but it looks great. It also makes full use of the LOT’s relatively tiny main stage, which raises the question: can a musical this big, this brash, this pink work in such an intimate space?
 
“I’m hoping the closeness will give the audience more of a connection to the characters,” says Galloro. 
 
Hookings, meanwhile, points to Galloro’s “really impressive” set pieces, which move the production along without the benefit of the usual major-theatre-sized equipment or blackouts to move the set.
 
Both men praise the show’s lead, Anna Hursham (Guys and Dolls, The Andrews Brothers), who “plays Elle with a perfect mix of Laura Bell Bundy [from the original Broadway show] and Reese Witherspoon,” even while making the character her own, according to Galloro.
 
Says Hookings, “Anna is amazing! I fell in love with her on day one, which is hard, because I have to not be in love with her for the show . . . The first time I heard her sing the title song I cried.” 
 
The show opens March 9. Until then, cast and crew will be spending up to 16 hours a day tweaking and refining.
 
“In the days leading up to the opening, everything finally starts to come together but at the same time falls apart,” says Galloro.
 
He expects the show to resonate with gay audiences in particular.
 
“At its roots, Legally Blonde is about Elle’s personal journey of self-discovery. This in itself is a huge aspect I think will resonate with the LGBT community. When Elle goes to Harvard she’s told she doesn’t belong there. She’s bullied and laughed at. Her self-acceptance and self-trust is the reason she succeeds,” says Galloro, himself gay.
 
Of course, he adds, the “fierce dancing and great music” don’t hurt either.

The Deets:
Legally Blonde: The Musical
Fri, March 9-Sat, March 31
Lower Ossington Theatre
100A Ossington Ave

lowerossingtontheatre.com