Ventured the furthest I’ve ever gone for theatre before on Saturday night to see the Seymour Performers Workshop’s adaptation of Legally Blonde and it was a production that showed all of the theatre community that rural Victoria can provide audiences far and wide with the goods just as much as the companies in Melbourne suburbia do in a high quality theatrical display.
Rightfully seated in the director’s chair, Olivia King had a creative vision that perfectly captured the essence of American college life from UCLA to Harvard Law with the spirit of community and camaraderie that Legally Blonde thrives on portraying and under King’s influence, each actor was able to have as much fun as humanly possible with performances that rightfully commanded attention like the bend and snap does in an elevating and entertaining directorial feat. Behind the baton as the production’s musical directors, father/son team Paul and Peter Lejins demonstrated their thrilling and thorough skills with instrumental and vocal orchestrations respectively early on with the best performance of the high energy opener Omigod You Guys I’d ever seen and their vocalists followed up each number with just as much heart and power as their predecessors under the Lejins’ enchanting spell. Every dance routine was like a 90s pop music video thanks to the upbeat and unapologetic choreography of Kyle Bloomfield, who gave us an undisputed dosage of nostalgia with dancing reminiscent of artists like Britney Spears, Aaliyah, Christina Aguilera and Mariah Carey and despite the physical difficulty of some numbers, Bloomfield kept each dancer’s dedication to the chorey at one hundred percent whether it was a sombre ballad or a full blown uptempo spectacle.
On to the fantastic performances given by the cast, we begin with the work of the ensemble and featured roles, all of whom were able to catch our eye with the finest of characterisation skills, multiple scenes would have felt incomplete without their inclusion and their triple threat abilities created a showcase that won’t soon be forgotten. Charli Lewis embodied Elle Woods down to a T as she tackled her all time dream role by balancing bounce and brains in a bright and bubbly portrayal that defined the feminist values her character stands for in a breathtaking fashion, resulting in one of the production’s biggest standouts. After brilliant takes of romantic supporting roles in three consecutive Diamond Valley Singers productions, Jack Maher got to explore an edgier side with his take on Warner Huntington III for SWP as he shined in a borderline antagonistic role while still utilising the trademark humour and wit he’s known for in a dashing and dynamic performance. John Leahy got across the fact that Professor Callahan is a master manipulator in his criminal yet cunning portrayal by convincing us that he was fair human being despite his ruthlessness in the courtroom early on in the show before unleashing Callahan’s true devious colours later on and transformed into the ultimate abusive predator right before our eyes. The positive and prestigious performance of Paulette Buonufonte given by Monica Berryman was another major standout as she has always been a highly relatable character to many individuals in the theatre community but Berryman could rewrite the book on how Elle’s beloved hairdresser bestie should be portrayed from her flawless Boston accent to her untamable desire for the Irish and the blessed bond she had with her dog Rufus and the people she graced the stage with.
Georgia Moorman, Chris Harris and Madeleine Lezon got the entire crowd cheering and laughing along with them in hilarious and honourable portrayals of Brooke Wyndham, Kyle O’Boyle and Enid Hoopes respectively, all of whom couldn’t be more different from one another character wise but they all brought out the best in their co-stars and connected with the audience like not many supporting performances can do successfully. Jennifer Roussos, Karl Sartori and Maddison Bywaters were the cheer squad to end all cheer squads with their giddy yet grand and greeting take on Elle’s “Greek Chorus” Margot, Pilar and Serena, supporting their Delta Nu sorority sister body and soul figuratively and literally with all the glowing glamour required to tackle these roles respectfully in a style similar to that of multiple girl groups of the last thirty years. As for the king and queen of the production, these crowns are placed on the heads of Thomas Boyd in the role of Emmett Forrest and Laura Hogan in the role of Vivienne Kensington. Boyd was strong, stimulating and a little bit seductive as he effortlessly swept us off our feet like he does Elle’s with his encouraging heart on full display, describing what it means to be a real man and sending a powerful message out into the world that there is no room for toxic masculinity in society, how important it is to respect women in the workplace, how men can be feminists too and how no one should be judged by appearances or anatomy. Meanwhile, Hogan was forceful, free and frank as her character went from judging books by their covers to a strong ally for female empowerment all the while rocking the house with her drive for the legal profession, her no-nonsense attitude and of course, her unforgettable lead vocal performance of the Legally Blonde Remix, all of which were combined to form a memorable performance that opened up doors and made a difference.
In conclusion, the Seymour Performers Workshop successfully got across their message that the theatre companies in rural Victoria deserve just as much attention and recognition in the amateur theatre circuit as the companies in the inner city suburbs have and with their empowering adaptation of Legally Blonde, could keep that message clear for years to come and I look forward to seeing what great theatrical presentations the company has to offer us all in the new year. Special shoutout to Olivia King, Brett and Elizabeth Harvey, Charli Lewis, Jack Maher, Chris Harris, Jennifer Roussos, Maddison Bywaters, Brooke Leech and Tobi Rose for their outstanding work on the production, to Ellie and Wolfgang, the two dogs on stage who had the parts of Bruiser and Rufus and to the rest of the cast and crew associated with Legally Blonde for a beyond incredible opening night. So if your from Seymour or the surrounding areas or if you’re city folk and you fancy a road trip to see a great adaptation of a musical theatre favourite, get your hands on some tickets while you still can, support the company and local theatre. Congratulations SWP on the start of a fabulous season, keep it positive and from Harvard to Ireland, always have that chip on your shoulder to keep you going.