EUSOG is the University’s oldest musical theatre society. Their latest and so far biggest production, the musical Legally Blonde: The Musical, was successfully staged from the 25th to the 29th of January. The Student got the chance to talk to the production team and cast about their vision for the show and their experience. Lewis Forman, a 4th year Linguistic student, is the Creative Producer. Falk Meier is the Musical Director. Fiona Forster, Molly Keating and Tess Bailie played Elle’s Californian friends in the musical.
Why did you choose this musical as your first production since Covid has prevented any staging?
Lewis Forman: I wanted to put on something known to a lot of people after Covid. The high energy and the emotions of the musical seemed perfect to break everyone out of the cycle of being tied to our bedrooms and get us back into the theatre.
My goal was to give everyone the show that they did not have over lockdown – audience and our team alike. I wanted everyone on our team to do exactly what they wanted to do to create something representative of all of us.
What was your individual take on this musical, what parts did you change and why?
Forman: The musical is a comedy, but we do not want our laughs to be cheap, we want it to be earned. Whilst we kept it set in its original time setting of 10-15 years ago, we have changed things intentionally, like the portrayal of certain characters.
We cannot change anything fundamental, like the words, because that would be a breach of the licence. But we can redirect the way the lines are spoken. That is what we did with Enid Hoopes, the gay character played by Freya Wilson. In the original script, she is very much the butt of the joke for being gay, which we changed.
Legally Blonde is great music, great energy, but it is quite dated. We wanted to un-date it and to overhaul anything that could have undermined the message. The message is that anyone can be whoever they want to be, given the empowerment, given the opportunity. I think this is also appropriate for us as a team. The way we have faced every challenge and gone from having our venue taken away from us to being in a bigger, flashier venue, thematically it fits in very well with the story we are telling on the stage.
The film and the musical have certain feministic aspects. How did you perceive this feminism?
Tess Bailie: It is a completely girl-boss, girl-power musical. Own your sexuality and do not change yourself for any man. Olivia Hall, the actress of Elle, said she has never felt so empowered as she did in “What You Want” when she comes out in the suit. She goes home every night from rehearsals and she feels like she has grown up.
Fiona Forster: There is actually a huge focus on the friendship that Elle has with her friends in the musical. The friends in the film disappear for ages, but in the musical, we are always there, supporting Elle as a Greek chorus.
This musical is the first production you did since 2019. What were the biggest challenges?
Forman: EUSA restrictions and finding a venue because of Covid. A lot of venues – large businesses – were hiking up their prices because they knew many places could not open. They made it very difficult for smaller companies – regardless of whether they were professional or not – to get off the grounds and create something economically viable. I felt deflated, discouraged, and quite betrayed. I was not expecting it to be easy, but I was expecting to come back and that perhaps some of the bigger venues would try to work with the smaller companies to make sure things could happen.
Molly Keating: There is so much talent at Edinburgh Uni, so much talent at every Uni, but amateurs and professionals have not been given the same time of day.
Bailie: It was also difficult to jump back into performing, which we have not done since 2019. Musical theatre is something that we grew up being trained to do, but then did not do for two of our prime years. Getting back into it was hard. On the other hand, I personally have developed so much compared to what I used to be.
(How) do you balance between university and rehearsals? How much time goes into a production like this?
Falk Meier: We started rehearsing on 03 October 2021. EUSOG usually starts in October and does the show at the end of November. But this time, it took longer than normal. It was crazy because there were constantly more things we had to organise for the show and we could never take a break – not even during the Christmas holiday. But it was absolutely worth it in the end.
Keating: We rehearsed three to four hours three times a week at the beginning. In the last few weeks it has been very intense. A lot of us have not watched one single lecture since we came back to Uni for this semester. Yes, this musical took up a lot of time, but because it was so competitive to get into the team, none of us took a second of it for granted.
Forman: I have averaged 45 hours a week on this project since September. Especially at the end of last semester, I would be doing a 9-5 workday on Legally Blonde and then a 6-4 am on Uni. I dropped an entire grade last semester because of this, but it has been absolutely worth it.
Most of you have experience in musical theatre. What advice would you give to people who are new to this and want to get involved?
Forman: Follow all of the social media pages. EUSOG and Footlights are musical theatre, EU Shakespear and Theatre Paradock are for experimental theatre, and Bedlam is a society just for theatre. Bailie: Join “Edi Uni Theatre Societies Freshers 2021” on facebook (you do not have to be freshers). This is a page for all theatre societies at the Uni, and they post all the information about how to get involved. That is how I found Legally Blonde.
Image: Poster of Legally Blonde the Musical, Courtesy of EUSOG