I thought I’d watch the Broadway version of Legally Blonde on YouTube, the one which MTV taped and aired, before seeing the local staging; I’ve never heard of the songs in the musical and I wanted to familiarize myself. I enjoyed it so much (my new favorite song is, Oh My God, You Guys) it raised my expectations. I also read reviews of Atlantis Productions’ version and they were all generally positive so I knew I was in for a treat.
I think as Filipinos, we can say that we’re generally apprehensive and skeptical of Western adaptations, more so in the case of Legally Blonde, which requires actors to have the California Valley accent and others to go… well, blonde. The inside jokes all refer to American pop culture, and require countless hours spent on cable TV and entertainment websites. I wondered if Atlantis attempted to tone down these references and adapt a more Pinoy flavor.
The answer was no, although there were little tweaks, such as references to American Idol and The Apprentice that weren’t in the Broadway version, but generally it stayed true to the original. The result: a lot of the jokes which were hilarious as I saw them in YouTube fell flat during the local staging. I could count the number of times the audience bellowed with laughter, and they were few. I’m not sure if these were due to: enunciation or audio/technical problems, or the audience simply not getting it.
The casting was perfect, with high praises for Jinky Llamanzares in the role of Paulette Bonafante; Geneva Cruz as Brooke Wyndham; Jett Pangan as Professor Callahan; Cris Villongco as Vivienne Kensington; and Joel Trinidad playing several bit roles, but most notably as the head of Harvard University Admissions. Nikki Gil had the perfect diction and accent as Elle Woods—plus a very pleasing singing voice—but she had zero energy (or okay, fine… 30 percent energy) during the 2 pm performance. Elle’s charm lies in her extreme perkiness and overall pleasantness—you’d want her to be your best friend; not Nikki’s Elle. Opposite of her were those playing the Delta Nu girls, who were really fun and hilarious to watch in their roles you’d want to hang out with them after to party; one would wonder why they had voted Elle as the sorority’s president.
Guji Llorenzana’s Warner lacked the arrogance that the character needed. Nyoy Volante had my eyes rolling every time it was his turn to speak—he delivered them as if he were reading nursery rhymes and I suppose this was due to his lack of confidence speaking in English. The other actors in their supporting roles were laudable, and provided this production with comic relief.
Production and stage design will never compare or even come close to the Broadway version, although I appreciate the campy charm of the toy dogs that replaced trained canines employed in the original production.
I’d recommend you to watch this particularly if you’d like to unwind and forget about the world’s troubles—just don’t watch the MTV broadcast prior to your play date. (I will leave it to you to read between the lines.)
Legally Blonde, The Musical runs until July 18.