Legally Blonde: The Musical. Book by Heather Hach, based on the novel by Amanda Brown and the 2001 film. Music and lyrics by Nell Benjamin and Laurence O'Keefe. Directed by Jim McMullen. Music director: Richard Daley. Choreographer: Sally Tulley. Canberra Philharmonic Society. Canberra Philharmonic Society. Erindale Theatre. August 22 to September 7, 2019. philo.org.au or 62571950.
Legally Blonde: The Musical might sound light and frothy. But the director, Jim McMullen, says it's very topical.
"There's the whole #MeToo movement and great stuff about empowerment," he says.
Elle, the main character, "has to fight for justice but not lose sight of who she really is".
The production has a cast of 39 and and a 12-piece band playing the score, which music director Richard Daley says is challenging with its emotional contrasts and wide variety of styles, from Irish ballad to hip hop to a more traditional Broadway sound.
The dancing is equally varied, first-time musical theatre choreographer Sarah Tulley says to go with the music styles, and fits in with her style: "I'm a really visual person."
Legally Blonde: The Musical had its Broadway premiere in 2007 and began on the West End three years later, winning three Laurence Olivier Awards including new musical.
Elle Woods (played by Charlotte Gearside) is the president of sorority Delta Nu at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is anticipating a wedding proposal from her boyfriend, Warner Huntington III (Patrick Galen-Mules) but he says he needs someone more serious and heads off to Harvard Law School without her.
The devastated Elle decides to pursue him and prove she can be serious rather than a seemingly frivolous blonde. She manages to get into Harvard Law too but discovers Warner has a new girlfriend, Vivienne (Katherine Bramston). Adding to her woes is the fearsome Professor Callahan (Ian Croker), who is merciless in the classroom.
She is out of her depth and ostracised by other students but gains sympathy - and perhaps more - from Callahan's teaching assistant, Emmett (Nick Valois).
Gearside - whose last role was Belle in Philo's Beauty and the Beast - says she loves Elle because she is positive, loyal and honest. Elle goes against the stereotype of the dumb blonde, being more intelligent than she or other people think. And she's a genuinely good person.
"She's never hurt anyone or been negative about anything."
Elle comes to realise there are more important things than trying to win Warner back an starts to fulfill her potential. She puts her knowledge - legal and otherwise - to good use, both to help herself and to help others, including Paulette.
McMullen says the musical is about "the joy of discovery - who she is, what she is".
She comes to realise, he says, that she is selling herself short.
Elle also realises it's worthwhile pursuing dreams in spite of the obstacles, he says, and that love can be found unexpectedly.
Speaking of unexpected also makes a friend when she visits Hair Affair intending to become a brunette, part of her seriousness campaign. The owner, Paulette (Hannah Maurice), talks her out of it and tells Elle about a problem of her own.
Maurice says Paulette is a character who struggles with self-esteem issues under an outgoing exterior. She had a difficult relationship with her ex-boyfriend Dewey (Zach Dowse) and is still having problems with him.
Dewey - "a bit of a bum", Maurice says - has stolen Paulette's dog Rufus.
But Elle thinks she has learned enough law to fix this problem - and later, she will get to work on a real court case with Callahan and his team including Emmett, Warner and Vivienne. Will this potentially volatile combination be able to work together productively? Can she work out her relationship issues?
The jury is out.