Music &Lyrics: Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin
Book: Heather Hach
Director &Choreographer: Jerry Mitchell
Reviewer: Michael Rawlings
In 2010 Legally Blonde was the surprise hit of London, seizing a sackful of awards for both the production and its star, Sheridan Smith. Its success was such that this touring production actually started life while the show was still resident at the Savoy, such was the demand for tickets; a situation that has only existed before with the mega-musicals of Les Miserables, Phantom, Mamma Mia and We Will Rock You. Now, less than six months after it closed, the show is back in London at the New Wimbledon Theatre where a packed house greeted its arrival in raptures. In other words, audiences simply can’t get enough of this show.
And, watching the show afresh, it is easy to see why audiences are ready to lap it up at every turn. The show itself is genuinely funny, with witty, intelligent lyrics and rhymes cropping up every second. From the inclusion of a Greek Chorus to the unexpected debatings of the court room in ‘There! Right There!’, the combination of O’Keefe and Benjamin’s lyrics with Hach’s book fuse with a delicious sense of irony. This show knows that it is unashamedly good fun and goes out of its way to celebrate this with a metaphorical knowing wink at the audience.
So, what about this production? By and large, it is a great example of a touring production; the large cast and band produce a fantastic sound and it has all the sparkle and glitz you would expect. Jerry Mitchell’s choreography remains utterly outstanding and the cast attack it with gusto and energy, spreading much joy around the auditorium. The costume design by Gregg Barnes is superb, and helps create a sea of colours and shades, which crucially have a certain timeless element to them; meaning that this show could continue to appear over and over again without ever seeming to age.
However, there are definite disappointments too. The set has been reduced to little more than a few flats and trucks, particularly in Act 1, and the opening scene set inside the sorority house (usually one of the highlights of the piece) fell quite flat due to a distinct lack of location and environment. The sound department fell very short of the mark, with several microphones coming up late or even dropping out of whole lines of dialogue in the middle of speeches. The piece is so intrinsically wordy that not being able to hear the dialogue properly really hinders the audience.
As Elle Woods, Faye Brookes can sing and dance a storm, but sadly lacked any real warmth or personality; her portrayal was almost caricatured and, as such, it proved difficult to actually care about her plight. Gareth Gates as Warner sounded fantastic in his numbers, but appeared to be rather miscast; too sensitive to be the arrogant big man.
Thankfully, the trio of Emmett (Iwan Lewis), Brooke (Hannah Grover) and Callahan (Andy Mace) proved the complete opposite. Each had wonderful characterization and their acting was superb, blending real emotion with the heightened comedy to brilliant effect.
Despite these niggles, Legally Blonde is still one of the best night’s out in theatre around. It’s big, it’s colourful, and most of all it’s oodles of fun. If you’ve never seen this show before, you MUST get to Wimbledon before the tour closes on Saturday 6th October. If you have seen it before, do go again; the production’s wit is still just as sharp, even if the heart is a little misplaced.