My limited experience with musicals consists of one viewing of the film adaptation of the Phantom of the Opera, repeated forced viewings of Rent, and a last minute ticket to a stage performance of Dirty Dancing I watched from under a balcony which was about 40 per cent blocked by a support pillar. That said, my experience has generally been with adaptations, and I do know what’s entertaining. If there’s one thing I can say about Brock Musical Theatre’s spring musical is that it was entertaining. Legally Blonde The Musical, which ran from March 15 to 17 in the Robertson Theatre at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre and it was a pretty good way to spend an evening.
While the show’s leading men, Frank Evan as Warner Huntington III and Marcus Tranquilli as Emmett Forrest, gave perfectly fine performances, the show’s two female leads were absolutely stunning. Haley Turnbull was charming and spritely as Elle Woods, with vocal skills that were far beyond the level of a university club production. She’s an excellent singer and performer and if this show is anything to go on, she’s got a big future in musical theatre. Elle’s ‘Greek Chorus,’ made up of her Delta Nu sorority sisters Serena (Alex Chubaty Boychuck), Margot (Shannon Fletcher), and Pilar (Olivia Vacca) brought comedy and sass to even the most lacklustre numbers. Sneaking in with a last minute showstopper, Emma Sandziuk, playing Vivienne Kensington, who was a bit of a background character through the whole performance, suddenly sang her heart out, surprising us all with her skill.
Though Elle was the star, Paulette stole the show. Danielle Viola hit us with a cheesy accent to start but when she sang she brought the house down. Her powerful voice didn’t even need the microphones to shake the rafters of the Robertson Theatre. When she talked Elle out of going brunette with her first number, Ireland, I knew I was in the presence of a star. Though she played the part of the campy sidekick, Viola has some serious chops, and I’d see the show again just for her.
I had the privilege of attending the sold-out opening night show on March 15. The production was certainly not perfect. The issue with seeing the first production though, is the inevitability of opening night hiccups. As can be expected with any amateur production, there were a few issues with microphones, missed cues, and props that refused to cooperate. Sometimes the band seemed to have one thing in mind, and the singers another. There seem to have been a few issues with blocking as well. We were clearly supposed to be focused on one character but they were buried behind a wall of backs and the triumphant moment of Elle’s graduation was lost.
However, no matter what the issues, they certainly did not warrant the awkward moment when an unannounced intermission was punctuated by BMT’s president, Linda Burt, who thanked the audience for sticking around for the second half.
Overall, Legally Blonde The Musical was an evening well spent. The crowd really got into story, with it’s catchy songs, athletic dance numbers, and snappy jokes — though I think we can all agree that, though it was by far the best number in the production, we could have gone without the awkward and stereotypical “Gay or European” scene. BMT are really making the best of what they’ve got to work with, and performing in a major venue like the Firstontario Performing Arts Center is doing them good. They are just one aspect of the burgeoning art, music, and theatre scene in the Niagara Region. Support from the community, including the entire run of the show being sold out weeks in advance of opening night, will go a long way to helping them up the ante next year. A little bit more attention to detail from the creative team, and this show would be a hit.
BMT dedicated the show to the memories of Helen Zdriluk, owner and Artistic Director of Centre Stage Theatre School & Productions and a former drama teacher at Burlington Central High School who passed away in April 2017 after a brief illness, and Katherine Oswald, a Brock University Dramatic Arts student who passed in October 2017 after a battle with cancer.
Brock Musical Theatre is a BUSU ratified club, and is funded primarily through community initiatives and corporate sponsorships. They are currently accepting applications for directors for next year’s show. For information on next year’s performances, applications, or to support the club, visit: brockmusicaltheatre.wordpress.com