Jul 29, 2010

[Theater] Legally Blonde: The Musical (Atlantis Productions)

Legally Blonde: The Musical (Atlantis Productions)As much as I hope that I'll be able to catch an actual Broadway show one day, I have to admit that the local theater offerings aren't too bad at all. Sure, we don't necessarily have the kind of productions that involve dynamic moving sets and gorgeous costumes, but we certainly make do with the resources that we have. That statement wasn't meant to belittle local theater - just to acknowledge that we're not as generously funded as most major US theater productions.

Being the lover of musicals that I am (and that's not just about me being gay, mind you), I've come to appreciate the efforts of Atlantis Productions to bring many popular Broadway shows to local theaters. And these aren't just haphazard stagings quickly put together, but are in fact serious efforts to provide local audiences a taste of what Broadway patrons get on a regular basis. The quality of the shows has been more than great in recent years and I certainly hope they keep it up.

Their latest production is definitely a quirky one - a play that's part of a recent trend of adapting movies and other alternative media into stage plays, many of them as musicals. I think the best example of this trend include shows like Hairspray that started out as a movie, got turned into a play and then the musical was adapted back into a movie. Talk about full circle! But this one is a very special one if only for the fact that I doubt many people expected it to be so successful. But strong writing, great songs and dynamic dance numbers helped put this show right up there with many other musical classics.

Elle Woods, pictured on the poster for the fil...Image via Wikipedia
Legally Blonde: The Musical is actually rather closely based on the first Legally Blonde movie that came out in 2001. At the center of the story is Elle Woods (Nikki Gil), who is expecting a marriage proposal from her high school sweetheart Warner (Guji Lorenzana). But much to the surprise of Elle and her sorority sisters at Delta Nu, the big date with Warner turns out to be the night he dumps her. He claims that he needs to find someone serious in line with his long-term career aspirations.

Elle then comes up with a radical plan - get into Hardvard Law School in order to follow Warner and prove to him that she can be the kind of woman he's looking for. With the help of Margot (Yannah Laurel), Serena (Emerita Alcid), Pilar (Myrene Santos) and the other Delta Nu sisters, she manages to get into the exclusive law school. However Warner is already dating Vivienne Kensington (Cris Villonco), a fellow classmate of theirs and this becomes yet another hurdle for our little Elle to overcome. Thus she finds that the only people willing to help her survive nightmare professors like Callahan (Jett Pangan) is his teaching assistant Emmett Forrest (Nyoy Volante) and local beautician Paulette (Jinky Llamanzares). Well, there's also the visions of her Delta Nu sisters that act as a Greek Chorus for her tragedy.

The heart and soul of this play had to be Nikki Gil, and she did a tremendous job of carrying the role of Elle all throughout the play. That was no small task given how vocally dynamic and comedically challenging the role is and I was quite impressed how she handled herself. I didn't even feel like she was a girl in a wig trying to do a passable job - for all purposes, she truly became Elle Woods and this helped the play become as successful as it was.

I don't have anything particularly good to say about the men in this play - both Guji and Nyoy were rather lackluster in their performances. Guji was very one-dimensional and Nyoy just seemed like a ill-fit for the key role of Emmett. Even after the big "transformation", I didn't feel the least bit endeared to him. At least he could sing well enough, although he seemed determine to change the songs into something more his style instead of how they were originally performed on Broadway. And don't get me started on their choice for the UPS guy (Calvin Millado).

When you get down to it, the only note-worthy male performance would probably have to be Felix Rivera as Nikos, the pool boy. They really embellished the gay campiness of it all. Plus he big finish with the on-stage kiss certainly sealed the deal, hehe.

The real stars were the women of this play, which is probably fitting given the message of self-empowerment all throughout. Paulette really worked for me given her own interpretation of the theater version of the character. Sure, I'd never believe that she was someone from the Bronx or anything like that, but she did capture the spunk and fire of the role. Of course I have to sing praises for the performance of the Delta Nu sisters. They were amazingly powerful and funny in their roles and could probably jump right into performing alongside the Broadway cast should they ever get the chance. And of course we have to take time to give commendation to Geneva Cruz's performance as Brooke Wyndham. Now I knew that was going to be a difficult role to fulfill given the high demands in terms of musical ability and dancing ability. But she managed to get through the physical demands well beyond my expectations and kept version of the character in line with the original concept.

The set design was a bit weird to me at first given the whole book motif to everything. But in time I learned to appreciate how it all came together and it certainly worked as a whole. Plus everything was garishly pink, which works given the history of the show. While our sets weren't quite as dynamic as their Broadway counterparts, there were some very creative designs put into play such as the books that became the department store and Elle's bedroom. And there was the shifting door section that could be a university park fence one moment and the solid classroom doors of Harvard the next. Kudos to the set design team for figuring out a creative way to make the show their own!

My only complaints other than about most of the male talent in the show would have to be the technical side to things. Despite the fact that I watched the very last show, it seems they never fully mastered the sound system at the Meralco Theater. There were annoying moments when the dialog would come across as too soft or the music simply being too loud.

Other problems had to do with some of the comedic moments since the timing would often be off. The best example would be during the Bend and Snap since the male dancers totally came in late during our show. It's misses like that which end up totally draining the comedic potential out of the scene, which is a bit of a downer given how over-the-top funny everything is supposed to be.

The Atlantis run of Legally Blonde: The Musical remains a rather noteworthy one and certainly a play I'd enjoy watching again should they decide to re-stage it. It gets 4 near wardrobe malfunctions out of 5.
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  1. Whoa. Geneva Cruz did the jump-rope "Whipped Into Shape"?

  2. Yes, she was able to manage singing while doing the jump-rope routine. Props to her!