An Acting Critique of Legally Blonde the Musical
On Friday night, May 3rd at & p.m., my mother and I attended the opening night of Legally Blonde in the Buena P.A.C. I must begin by saying that I am slightly biased towards one of the actors who just so happens to be my sister, so the roles of Chutney, the girl who accidentally murdered her father, and a Delta Nu sister have never been played more perfectly in my eyes. While I found the play both amusing and enjoyable, there were some big issues as far as opening night goes. Things like lack of projection (on top of some serious microphone issues, which I cannot blame the actors for), actors forgetting lines, and sloppy blocking, especially in many of the dances during the musical numbers, all took away from the overall experience of the show. However, there were definitely some things I absolutely loved, which were mostly specific characters. Also, the quality of the singing in all the musical numbers was very high, which is something you don’t see often in a high school musical production. That being said, I thought it was worth my five dollars, and a great way for Buena to end its 2012-13 season.
Like I said before, technical aspects such as microphone malfunctions cannot be blamed on the actors. It is the job of the technicians to ensure all of the equipment functions properly. However, I believe that actors should not rely on such technical aspects alone to ensure that they are effectively heard by every member of the audience. Call me old fashioned, but I am a firm believer in projection; making your voice bounce off the walls of the theater. After all, theaters are geometrically designed to do just that. But I guess not everyone feels that way, and it was apparent Friday night when every time an actor’s microphone went out, it was as if they were whispering. This is often detrimental to the plot because if actors cannot be heard, vital pieces of information are lost upon the audience. This issue could have been non-existent if the actors had practiced their projection. Luckily, I saw the movie first, so I knew the plot before I even watched the play.
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Along with not always being able to hear the actors, line memorization seemed to cause a few problems on stage Friday night as well. I will admit, it was not as apparent of a problem as was the lack of audibility at times,
but I did notice it quite a few times. The example that stood out to me most was the character of Paulette, the owner of Elle’s favorite salon and close friend to Elle. She was in the middle of a solo on stage and completely dropped almost an entire verse of her song. I will not judge her too harshly because I fully understand the pressures of opening night, and I am sure the pressure of a solo is equally as heavy. I am simply using it as an example. Any other line slips I noticed were fairly minor, and when they happened, the actors did a pretty good job of covering it up and going with the flow.
The last big problem I had with Legally Blonde the Musical was the blocking. Call me crazy, but it seemed to me towards the end of the play that either the actors got extremely lazy with their blocking during the dances, or they simply did not rehearse the scenes enough. Either way, it was very obvious. Actors were off tempo, bumping into one another, and were also completely out of sync when they should not have been. The actors most guilty of that were the Delta Nu sorority sisters (except my sister, of course).
I also noticed that it was not only the dance scenes that lacked blocking, but so did many of the conversational scenes. I love watching actors’ faces more than anything because I believe that’s where most acting is done. I wanted so badly to do that Friday night, but I spent the whole time craning my neck to try and get glimpses. Quite irritating, considering the fact that my mother and I showed up almost a half hour early to get seats in the center of the house. Acting is all about action, and action cannot be understood if it cannot be seen.
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Now that I have ranted and raved about what I really did not enjoy about the Friday night showing of Legally Blonde the Musical, I should probably talk about the things that I really enjoyed, which definitely outweighed the bad. My absolute favorite character (besides the ones played by my sister) was Enid Hoopes, played by senior Aubrie Bouchard. She was a women’s rights activist, as well as a full-blooded lesbian, your average tough girl with a lot to prove to the world. She was absolutely hilarious; her timing was great, her character development was awesome, and her projection was wonderful. She had me rolling with all of her perfectly timed quips, especially when her inner lesbian showed.
My other favorite group of characters was Elle’s three best friends from Malibu: Pilar, Margot, and Serena, who also came to be known as the Greek chorus. This was an extremely appropriate nickname because they served the same purpose as the original Greek choruses in the first plays. They always showed up in Elle’s times of need to provide her with support, and to provide the audience with information. They also happened to be hilarious and bubbly, as Delta Nu sisters should be. They also had wonderful projection, especially Serena, played by Jansen Morgen. I also enjoyed Professor Callahan’s character, played by Braxton Olgetree. He was not a very likable character as far as the plot of the play went, but I could tell the actor put a lot of work into his character, especially on the voice. He was drab and monotone, just like a law professor at Harvard should be, and his character work really shone through. I also must mention the most adorable and well-behaved character of the entire show, the part of Rufus, Paulette’s dog, played by an American bulldog named Sarge. He was both cute and flawless.
The other thing I loved about this play was the overall quality of the singing. I was very pleased with all the musical numbers; all the songs were cute and catchy, no one made my ears bleed, and I could hear everyone fairly well even with all of the microphone issues. Usually, from my personal experience, most high school musicals consist of two groups of people: choir kids and theater kids. Not all choir kids can act, and not all theater kids can sing, but I am pleased to say that this musical was not that way. Everyone was able to sing and act quite effectively. My favorite musical number was the song “Gay or European”, which was performed in the courtroom scene when they were trying to figure out whether or not the pool boy, who claimed to be Brooke Windam’s lover, was gay. It was very light-humored and entertaining. I also enjoyed the opening number, “Ohmigod”, which was performed by Elle and her Delta Nu sisters in the very beginning.
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Like I said from the start, I was a little biased towards this play from the beginning simply because my little sister was in it. However, even when I put my bias aside, I can honestly say I was thoroughly pleased with my experience as an audience member as a whole. While I must admit there were various issues with things like actor projection, lack of proper blocking, and lack of line memorization, the overall quality of acting was quite enjoyable. The character work done by most of the actors was very apparent and applaudable. I loved all of the main characters, as well as the minor ones. The singing was also fantastic; I did not find myself cringing at any of the musical numbers. Instead, I actually found myself tapping my feet and sometimes even singing along with the catchy songs. I know the showings of Legally Blonde the Musical are all over now, but I would recommend it to anyone to go and see that show. It was definitely an “A” performance.